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Food choices in the presence of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ eating partners

  • Eric Robinson (a1) and Suzanne Higgs (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 30 May 2012

Eating with others has been shown to influence the amount of food eaten in a meal or snack. We examined whether choosing food in the presence of another person who is choosing either predominantly low-energy-dense or high-energy-dense foods affects food choices. A between-subjects laboratory-based study was used. A group of 100 young females selected a lunch-time meal from a buffet consisting of a range of high-energy-dense and low-energy-dense foods, in the presence of an ‘unhealthy’ eating partner (who chose predominantly high-energy-dense foods) or a ‘healthy’ eating partner (who chose predominantly low-energy-dense foods) or when alone. Participants in the ‘unhealthy’ eating partner condition were significantly less likely to choose and consume a low-energy-dense food item (carrots), than when choosing alone or in the presence of a ‘healthy’ eater. Choice of high-energy-dense food did not differ across the conditions, nor did the total energy consumed. These data suggest that social influences on food choice are limited in this context but the presence of an ‘unhealthy’ eating partner may undermine intentions to consume low-energy-dense foods.

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British Journal of Nutrition
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