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Eating Dessert First May Help Dietary Compliance

Eating Dessert First May Help Dietary ComplianceWhile it seems absurd, a new study suggests eating dessert first may help an individual better follow their diet.

Researchers say a key aspect of dieting involves an individual paying close attention to the amount of unhealthy foods they eat.

“Although self-control is typically viewed as a battle between willpower and desire, consumers can’t rely entirely on willpower to control their eating. They also need to create situations that will make them lose interest in food. One way is to keep better track of the quantity of unhealthy foods they eat,” write authors Joseph P. Redden, Ph.D., and Kelly L. Haws, Ph.D.

The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Some individuals are better able to exercise self-control when it comes to their diets while millions of others can’t seem to stop overindulging on unhealthy foods such as cookies and candies.

Do the former have more willpower? Or are they simply satisfied more quickly?

To answer this question, Redden and Haws performed a series of studies and discovered that consumers who successfully control their diets eat fewer unhealthy foods because they are satisfied sooner.

They also found that many consumers with poor self-control were able to establish greater control when they paid close attention to the quantities of unhealthy foods they consumed because simply paying attention made them more quickly satisfied.

In one experiment, a group of consumers were asked to eat either a healthy or an unhealthy snack. Some of the consumers were asked to count how many times they swallowed while eating the snack.

Consumers who counted the number of times they swallowed were satisfied more quickly even if they otherwise had a low level of self-control. Monitoring how much they ate made consumers with low self-control behave like those with high self-control.

In sum, keeping track of amount of unhealthy food we eat is key. And, if that means consciously eating dessert first, then so be it.

“Dieters should focus on the quantity of unhealthy foods but not the quantity of healthy foods. Monitoring healthy foods could actually be counterproductive to the goal of eating a healthier diet. So the secret to success is knowing when to monitor your eating,” the authors concluded.

Source: Journal of Consumer Research

Eating Dessert First May Help Dietary Compliance

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Eating Dessert First May Help Dietary Compliance. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Sep 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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