What’s the best way to stick with a healthy eating diet plan? One proven strategy, with science to back it up, is to make your food choices long before you plan to eat the meal.

We’ve all made the mistake of going too long between meals. The predictable result is that we end up on a search and destroy mission for the first donut, bag of chips or candy bar we can get our hands on. And we’ve all heard the sage advice about never going grocery shopping or to a restaurant when you’re famished. Somehow cookies, candy and desserts are a must-have. Healthy fare is just not appealing.

So, it’s not surprising that if you’re trying to stick to a healthy eating diet plan, one technique that will increase your chances of doing so, is to make your selections in advance rather than on the spur of the moment.

A series of experiments at Carnegie Mellon University found that when there was a significant delay between the time a person ordered the food and the time they planned on eating it, they chose lower-calorie meals. This happened without the participants consciously focusing on ordering less food. Many didn’t even realize that they’d chosen lower-calorie options.

The researchers concluded that the fact that the participants were less hungry when they ordered the meal accounted for “only a small part of the difference.”
The lead researcher, Dr. VanEpps, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, explains it this way: “People have a bias toward the present that alters the calculations they make about something that is occurring momentarily. If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits. In the case of food, we care about what’s happening right now – like how tasty it is – but discount the long-term costs of an unhealthy meal.”

In other words, when we order food in advance, we weigh both the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits.

Recent Evidence That Shows How to Optimize a Healthy Eating Plan

There is now scientific evidence to back up this proposition:
• When people order groceries online, they are more likely to choose healthier foods when they schedule a delivery date several days away.

• When people choose a snack a week in advance were more likely to pick an apple or banana over a candy bar.

• Employees who place their lunch orders hours in advance ended up consuming fewer calories than those who did so 30 minutes before the order was placed.

• Employees who ordered their lunch before 10:00 a.m. and had to wait at least an hour before eating, ate fewer calories than those who placed their order after 11:00 a.m., and waited just 30 minutes before eating it.

Click here to read the full article about a healthy eating diet plan that includes choosing your food in advance.