Science - August 26, 2009

Predictable lunchers and greasy snacks

There are predictable lunchers and adventurous lunchers. Their habits are studied at the Restaurant of the Future.

Lunchers at the Restaurant of the Future come in all shapes and sizes - and with all sorts of eating habits. That’s what researcher René de Wijk discovered when he monitored the eating habits of about three hundred lunchers over two months.  ‘We looked at what people ate and linked the data to age, gender and Body Mass Index (BMI)’, De Wijk explained.
Greasy snack
The predictable luncher eats the same thing every day. For the confirmed soup fan no lunch is complete without a bowl of vegetables and meat cooked to a pulp. The adventurous luncher, on the other hand, goes for variety. Chubbier lunchers keep their BMI up by going for less variety and for the fattier foods. And on Fridays men often treat themselves to a greasy savoury snack, while women indulge in a calorific dessert. A reward for a hard week’s toil at Wageningen UR.
De Wijk discovered that whether people always bought the same food depended a lot on the item.  ‘There’s more chance with a snack than with a soup that you’ll see somebody pick it one day but not the next’, he explains.  So if people choose soup, there’s a good chance they do so often, whereas there’s much less ‘loyalty’ to snacks.
Influencing behaviour
De Wijk wonders why one third of his subjects systematically choose the same lunch every time. ‘Maybe these people are not interested in food?’ he suggests. He thinks it could be difficult to influence the behaviour of this group of people. ‘Pity’, he says, ‘because we could tackle poor eating habits and the weight problems they cause by influencing food choices'. /HW