Are you back out there?
Last Tuesday marked the first day where restaurant dining activity EXCEEDED pre-pandemic levels...this according to OpenTable.com's CEO Debby Soo. Clearly, people are getting more comfortable venturing back out to their favorite restaurants.
As you head back out to meet up with family and friends, stop for a second and notice the music. Yes, you might be surprised how music can affect your food choices!
...you're in a restaurant, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is rockin' in the background, and you're looking over the menu deciding what to order.
Suddenly, you're craving a juicy BBQ bacon cheeseburger, fries and a cold beer. You try to focus on the salads, but no deal, your burger craving is taking over...
Would you believe the music you are hearing is likely affecting your food choices?
Several studies found that "when music in a restaurant is louder, diners are more prone to ordering unhealthy foods." There have been various theories and studies on this over the years, including a recent study that was done in a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden, where music was played at 55 and 70 decibels at different times.
They found that more customers ordered unhealthy items when the music was louder compared to those who dined during lower volume times.
Believe it or not, sound can have a profound effect on your food choices and your dining experience.
We were discussing this while sitting at a restaurant bar, enjoying some food and drinks, when the bartender chimes in and says, “that’s true…when our owner comes in, he cranks up the music and says people order more when the music is louder.”
Imagine the flip side...
...you're dining in a casual Italian restaurant and there's a faint sound of smooth jazz playing. Suddenly, you're in the mood for a glass of wine, and are looking forward to a relaxing dinner comprised of a Hummus and veggies appetizer, fresh farmers’ market salad and a wood-fired Margherita pizza.
Amazing how your food choices and experience can be so different just based on the atmosphere and the music!
Why would background music have such a powerful effect on us?
One study said that "in essence, louder music tends to make people more excited -- and higher levels of excitement (and stress) tend to enhance preference for high energy and high fat foods." We don't even realize it, but loud music unconsciously increases our level of stimulation and stress, which leads us to crave that burger and fries! Whereas, calming music tends to make us relaxed and more mindful.
Louder music can also cause our willpower and self-control to break down.
Have you ever been at an event (maybe a wedding reception) where there are bowls of unhealthy snacks and candy on the tables? No matter how hard you try, it's almost impossible to resist grabbing a handful, and then another. This is another example of how our environment has such a profound affect on our food choices!
So, what can we do?
Of course, you are in control when eating at home. When dining out, our experiences can vary widely depending on the type of restaurant and food, the occasion, our mood, and the people we are with (such as friends, co-workers, or family). And, it's NOT realistic to think we can always control our environment, but half the battle is being aware of it! Once you acknowledge it, there are a few things you can do:
- Relax and focus on mindful eating – ask yourself whether you truly want that burger and fries, or if your mind is playing tricks on you and you'll be more satisfied at the end of the meal if you make a different choice. If you absolutely can’t resist the craving, consider splitting it with someone else. Chances are, a few bites will satisfy your craving.
- Use our eating out tips to navigate and make the best choices when you enjoy meals away from home.
- Recognize how stress can affect your eating habits, and use these ideas to stop stress in its tracks (or at least reduce it as much as possible)!
- Set the mood at home. Consider how your home environment is affecting your food choices and eating habits. Experiment with different “atmospheres” and music to create the best healthy environment.
We want you to enjoy your meals both at home and away from home, and we also want to always help make your experiences healthy ones!
Have you noticed how music or other factors affect your cravings and choices when dining out?
Please share your stories!