People underestimate how much weight food makes when sharing a meal or snack with others, research shows.
For the diners, the food seems less fatty to them when it is shared because they do not feel that they “own” the food.
This perceived lack of ownership when sharing food means people “mentally separate calories from their consequences,” Canadian scientists have suggested.
The research, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, also found that losing that judgment on how fat a food is when sharing makes diners want to eat more since they viewed it as a meal. free”.
For the guests, the food seems less fatty to them when it is shared because they do not feel that they “own” the food.
Scientists Nükhet Taylor and Theodore Noseworthy said their findings suggested that sharing snacks or small plates in restaurants with family and friends may actually encourage “excessive calorie intake” by causing people to underestimate l ‘fattening food.
Dr Taylor told The Times: “When we see food on a shared plate, we always understand how many calories we are consuming, but we don’t think those calories will impact our waistlines.
“In other words, because the shared plate does not belong to us, it is a common plate shared with someone else, we believe that whatever we eat on this plate will have no consequence on our weight.
“This, in turn, makes us want to eat more, since there is no effect on our food intake.
“We find that this intuition can be quite problematic for weight management, as we end up consuming more calories by sharing food with others.”
Researchers believe a perceived lack of ownership over shared food makes calories unimportant, possibly due to so-called “mental accounting” – a process that allows consumers to use mental accounts to track their monetary expenditures and calorie budgets.
They believe that consumers may not include the calories they consumed by sharing food in their calorie budget because they think those calories are not theirs.
People Underestimate How Fattening Foods When Sharing a Meal or Snack with Others, Research Finds (File Image)
In their study, Taylor and Noseworthy conducted three experiments with 719 people.
In one experiment, they found that people found fries shared with a friend on a plate 15% less fattening than the same amount of fries on separate plates.
When they dined alone, they found the fries 18% less fat, despite the calories being exactly the same.
Even with healthy snacks, the same amount of almonds was perceived to be 22% less fat when shared with a friend, compared to a meal alone.
Those who participated in the experiment also received chocolate M & Ms, which they found 20% less fattening when consumed in a shared bowl than when consumed alone.
This meant that for healthy and unhealthy snacks, sharing reduced the perceived fattening of foods.
“This suggested that sharing reduced perceived ownership, and it reduced fattening judgments for healthy and unhealthy foods,” the researchers wrote in the study.
“So rather than a motivational mechanism that relies exclusively on unhealthy foods, it seems like sharing causes a general bias. Critically, these results occurred in the presence of explicit calorie information. ‘
In the final experience, participants were asked to imagine being at a McDonald’s and eating a shared box of Chicken McNuggets that was owned by themselves or a friend.
They were then asked, after eating the nuggets, to choose between apple slices, a low-calorie option, or an ice cream sundae, a high-calorie option, for dessert.
Those who imagined eating their friend’s nuggets were 13% more likely to choose sundae for dessert than those who imagined eating their own nuggets.
“Our results suggest that food sharing may encourage excessive calorie intake by causing consumers to underestimate the fattening potential induced by shared food consumption,” the study concluded.