It's estimated that we make roughly 250 food decisions a day - many of which we're unaware of. One of the biggest factors in our food decisions is our food environment which can prompt us to eat in a particular way.
Our food environment is vast - it includes all the ways in which you may be exposed to food throughout your day from social media to the restaurants in your neighborhood.
We have a tendency to adjust our eating behaviors based on food cues we pick up in our environment.
The CDC defines a food environment as:
- the physical presence of food that affects a person's diet
- a person's proximity to food store locations
- the distribution of food stores, food services, and any physical entity by which food may be obtained
- a connected system that allows access to food.
Let's dive into the food cues you're likely to be exposed to in two different food scenarios - a restaurant and at home - and how behavior can shift.
At a restaurant
- Restaurant reviews tend to be more negative on days where the weather was considered bad.
- Menus that don't include currency signs encourage us to spend more money, likely consuming more calories.
- People tend to eat about 200 calories more on days when they eat out at a restaurant.
- People tend to follow the lead of whomever orders first - whether they get a salad or burger, fellow dinners are more likely to do the same.
- We tend to adopt the food habits of our partners or roommates - often matching portion sizes and eating speeds.
- Having fruits and vegetables visible and easily accessible can prompt us to eat them more frequently.
- More frequent grocery trips may encourage more consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- Meals you had a role in preparing tend to be more enjoyable.
- Eating in front of a screen can increase consumption by 30-60%.