Single young people order healthier food if they’re on a date with somebody good-looking, a study has revealed.
The attractiveness of your dining partner doesn’t make a difference if you’re already in a relationship or eating with someone you have no interest in.
But both men and women are keen to be seen as healthy when searching for a potential romantic partner.
People tend to make healthier choices in restaurants if they are single and know they will be eating with someone they find attractive, which scientists believe is because both sexes want to appear fit and healthy to potential mates
Researchers at East Carolina University studied 639 heterosexual students with an average age of 18 to find out how a good-looking dining companion would affect what they ate.
Women may eat healthier because thinness is seen as more attractive, while men want to portray themselves as fit and healthy, the researchers suggest.
In the study, each of the participants were told to pick an item from a restaurant menu after being shown a photo of who they would be eating with, The Times reported.
The scientists had already rated people’s attractiveness beforehand, and found the most attractive people inspired their partners to eat healthily.
On the other hand people in relationships, those with unattractive dates, or straight people with someone of the same sex did not change their meal choice.
‘Perhaps because society portrays thinner women as more desirable,’ the authors wrote, ‘women may be especially motivated to appear thin or at least to engage in behaviors that promote thinness when in the presence of others.’
They added: ‘Smaller meals are generally considered to be more neat and feminine … and women tend to be rated as more attractive when their meals contain lower fat content.’
But their theory about men was wrong – they thought men would eat more calories in a bid to seem more muscular and strong.
This theory appears to have been based on past research claiming men eat bigger portions in the presence of women in an attempt to seem more powerful.
However, if that was ever true it doesn’t apply to 21st century young men, who are more likely to want to be seen as health-conscious.
‘Individuals who consume healthier foods tend to be rated as more fit, attractive, and likeable,’ the scientists said to explain the men’s behaviour.
‘This research showed that women rate men who eat “good” (i.e., healthy) foods to be especially attractive.
‘It could be said that people generally adhere to the mantra of “you are what you eat”.’
And the scientists explained their findings support other research which has shown women to be less willing to buy unhealthy food after looking at an attractive man.
On the flipside, looking at attractive women doesn’t change how healthy a man wants to be, but makes him likely to spend more money on food and drink.
The research was published in the journal Appetite.
EATING WITH UNHEALTHY FRIENDS MAKES YOU UNHEALTHY
Have you ever tried to eat healthily but found yourself ordering a burger or pizza when you go to a restaurant?
Well scientists say you can blame the people you eat with for guilt-tripping you out of choosing a salad.
Researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea found people are significantly more likely to order fatty food or drinks when the people they’re dining out with make unhealthy choices first.
Those who order after someone who has chosen something high in calories are likely to also pick something unhealthy so they don’t embarrass their companion.
And the effect is likely to be stronger if your dining partner is fat, the scientists said, because you’d be more conscious of making them feel guilty.
Scientists made their findings by studying receipts at a cafe on their campus.
They found people who went in on their own had a 50/50 chance of choosing a high or low calorie drink.
But those who went as part of a pair and chose second – after a friend who ordered something unhealthy – chose unhealthily themselves in 80 per cent of cases.