Wish you had more willpower when standing at the counter choosing from the fast-food menu? Nonverbally ordering your food may help you choose healthier options, suggests new Dutch research published in the American Journal of Consumer Research.
In one experiment, scientists approached people in a restaurant and offered them a free dessert: either fruit salad or chocolate mousse. Half of the diners were asked which dessert they wanted, while the other half pressed buttons to indicate their preferences.
Several subsequent experiments found a similar effect: people made healthier choices when they pressed buttons on vending machines, wrote their orders down or simply grabbed the food themselves than when they ordered aloud.
Why? Using your hands when you order activates a part of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is also involved with impulse control, says study author Dr Anne-Kathrin Klesse. So when you choose your own meals, engaging your hands could trick your brain into making smarter decisions, Klesse says.
At the food court, you may be better off hitting up a restaurant with grab-and-go options or touchscreens than places that force you to interact with other humans (the horror!).
And when you go to a restaurant where you have to order aloud, check out the menu in advance, Klesse says. Even though you’re not using your hands, thinking about your decision ahead of time will help you make a less impulsive choice.