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Do You Buy Healthier Food for Yourself or Others?

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Perhaps you find yourself pushing cake and cookies on your friends and family when they come to visit. It seems to be the norm in many households, and most people don’t want to offend the host by refusing.

Well, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that consumers choose foods that are less healthy when they are buying for other people.

I know I’ve certainly done this in the past. When I have guests over for the evening, I’ll go all out with dinner, dessert, and chocolates. That’s definitely not how I normally do things. But, I always feel like I want to spoil them—perhaps that saying “Killing with kindness?” would be appropriate!

According to researcher, Juliano Laran from the University of Miami, consumers exert more self-control when they make choices for themselves.

In one study, participants were asked to make a sequence of four choices from items that were healthy—raisins, celery sticks, etc., or indulgent—chocolate bars, cookies, ice cream, and doughnuts.

When making choices for themselves, participants chose a balance of healthy and indulgent food items … When making choices for others, however, participants chose mostly indulgent food items.

Another study, looking at consumers leaving the supermarket, confirmed earlier results, which found consumers bought equally indulgent items when purchasing for their families, friends, or roommates.

If you are the main shopper in your home, what choices have you been making for your partner, children, or friends? Moreover, if someone you know is already overweight, would you give him or her unhealthy food, knowing it may be adding to his or her burden?

Laran goes on to say:

One of the reasons the population gets more and more obese is that other people, like friends throwing a party or parents buying for their children, choose a lot of the food we consume … Taking responsibility for their own choices instead of letting others choose could help consumers fight against obesity and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Do you reflect any of these habits when catering for others? For example, when someone in your family is feeling unhappy, your first instinct may be to cook something tasty to “cheer” them up. Granted, tasty doesn’t always mean unhealthy, but this mentality may be what Laran was talking about.

Perhaps, what makes people feel better isn’t the food you make for them, but the fact you offer to do something “nice” for them. If this is the case, there are other things we can do for our family and friends, which doesn’t involve an obscene amount of calories.

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