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Restaurant Lighting, Music Could Affect Your Calorie Consumption: Study

Who knew the restaurant lights could make such a difference in how much you eat?

A new study from Cornell University shows that softer lighting and music was linked with fewer calories consumed by restaurant diners.

And not only did eat fewer calories, but they also enjoyed their food more, too, the researchers found.

"These results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption," study researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., an expert on mindless eating and director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab, said in a statement. "This is important information for fast-food restaurants, which are often accused of contributing to obesity: Making simple changes away from brighter lights and sound-reflecting surfaces can go a long way toward reducing overeating -- and increase their customers' satisfaction at the same time."

For the study, published in the journal Psychological Reports, researchers modified a Hardee's restaurant so that there was an unchanged part of the dining room, and then a part of the dining room where the music and lighting were softened. Thirty-three people sat in the main, unchanged dining room, while 29 sat in the modified dining room.

The researchers found that both groups of people ordered about the same amount of food, but the people who sat in the modified dining room sat and ate longer, and ultimately threw more of the food away -- meaning they consumed fewer calories. And people who sat in the modified dining room also rated their food higher.

"There are clear implications for restaurants wishing to help consumers slow down and enjoy their food. Yet there are
also implications for consumers who want to eat less," researchers wrote in the study.

"The way to 'have your cake and eat it too' may be to enjoy the atmosphere instead of the cake," they wrote.

For more tips to combat mindless eating, click through the slideshow:

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  • Use A Bigger Fork

    A study published in the <em>Journal of Consumer Research</em> shows that restaurant-goers who <a href="http://www.jcr-admin.org/files/pressPDFs/071311193612_mishra.pdf" target="_hplink">eat with really big forks</a> (20 percent bigger than a normal fork you'd find at a restaurant) eat less food and leave more on their plates than people who eat with really small forks. A possible explanation for this finding is that when people use small forks to eat, they feel like they are not making any big <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/07/15/using-a-big-fork-may-help-you-eat-less/?xid=huffpo-direct" target="_hplink">progress in eating their meal</a> and quelling their hunger pangs, <em>TIME</em> reported. In addition, the restaurant-goers who ate with the smaller forks and were given bigger portions of food at much more food than if they just had the smaller forks or if they just had the bigger portions.

  • Eat From A Smaller Bowl

    Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that people eat 31 percent more ice cream when they eat out of a 34-ounce bowl, rather than 17-ounce one, ScienceDaily reported. Researchers explained that's because people eat about 92 percent of what they serve themselves -- so if you <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060803082602.htm" target="_hplink">serve yourself more, you'll eat more</a>.

  • Get Some Sleep

    Columbia University researchers found that <a href="http://www.thirdage.com/news/sleep-deprivation-may-increase-hunger_3-26-2011" target="_hplink">sleep deprivation can also lead to more calories consumed</a>. They found that women who only got 4 hours sleep the night before ate 329 more calories in a nine-hour period compared with if they weren't sleep deprived, while men ate 263 more calories when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-more-lose-weight_b_857080.html" target="_hplink">sleep-deprived</a>. "It has an impact on cognitive restraint," study researcher Marie-Pierre St. Onge told ThirdAge. "High-fat food is tempting, and maybe on <a href="http://www.thirdage.com/news/sleep-deprivation-may-increase-hunger_3-26-2011" target="_hplink">short sleep you can't restrain yourself</a> as well, while on full sleep you can resist more easily."

  • Mind Your Environment

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/mindless-eating-environment-location_n_945712.html" target="_hplink">WHERE you eat your food</a> could also factor in to how much you eat and whether you're eating food even though you're not hungry, according to research from the University of Southern California. Researchers had movie-goers say whether they were regular popcorn-eaters or not, and then they had them eat either stale popcorn or freshly popped popcorn. The regular popcorn-eaters ate just as much stale popcorn as fresh popcorn, while people who didn't consider themselves regular popcorn-eaters ate significantly less stale popcorn than fresh since it didn't taste as good. "The results show just how <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/mindless-eating-environment-location_n_945712.html" target="_hplink">powerful our environment can be</a> in triggering unhealthy behavior," study researcher David Neal said in a statement. "Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead."

  • Hide The Junk Food

    Research from Cornell University shows that we are three times more likely to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/see-first-eat-visible-food_n_984004.html" target="_hplink">eat the first thing that we see</a>, compared with the fifth thing we see. In that study, researchers took photographs of 100 kitchen cupboards and asked the owners to keep records of what they ate. Researchers also tried moving the food around in the cupboards to see if that impacted their food choices -- and found that it did. The research shows that "we end up being masters of our own demise, to some extent," study researcher Professor Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," told HuffPost.

  • Eat Using Your Non-Dominant Hand

    Research published in the <em>Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin</em> shows that <a href="http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/20/overeating-which-hand-are-you-using/" target="_hplink">eating with your non-dominant hand</a> can help you to decrease the amount of food you consume, CNN reported. The finding was part of the same movie-theater/popcorn study, where it was discovered that environment plays a part in mindless eating. Like in that experiment, researchers gave study participants either fresh or stale popcorn. They found that people who used their non-dominant hands and ate the stale popcorn ate 30 percent less than if they used their dominant hands, CNN reported.

  • How to Avoid Mindless Eating

    Food Think with Wansink: Economy-size snacks can cause you to eat more

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Filed by Amanda L. Chan  |