A new study shows the benefits of patience.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
Fast Food and Hormones
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Making healthier food choices can difficult, but according to a recent study, there's one simple thing that can drastically affect what you eat: timing. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a number of experiments to determine how waiting to eat affects how much we eat. Their results, which were published in the journal American Marketing Association, showed that when there was a delay between when the food was ordered and when it was actually consumed, participants tended towards eating lower-calorie meals.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of this effect, researchers noted that participants didn't appear to be aware they were making more healthful choices. According to study lead Eric M. VanEpps, a post-doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, this phenomenon is caused by a "bias toward the present," which leads to impulsive decisions that disregard the long-term. "If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits," VanEpps tells The New York Times. Therefore, when food is being purchased and consumed immediately, taste often trumps potential future ramifications.

VanEpps and his team found that those who ordered a meal further in advance or planned out future meals were better at "evenly weighing the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits." Therefore, rather than gobbling down the most potentially tasty menu item on a whim, those who paused picked healthier, more forward-thinking dishes.

According to the Times, a number of recent studies have come to similar conclusions about the benefits of planning out meals in advance. One such study found that people who chose a snack a week in advance tended toward a piece of fruit over a candy bar, versus those picking the snack in the moment, who often went for the candy. Another study found that people who ordered groceries online (to be delivered days later) often made healthier choices while shopping.