According to previous research, exercising with a friend may be more effective than doing so alone. TIME reports that eating with a friend may steer you toward a healthier diet, too.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oklahoma State University studied the lunch receipts of a restaurant that had agreed to use three specially designed menus for three months: One group of customers was given the restaurant’s original menu. Another was given a menu with calorie counts, while another was given a menu with calorie counts and traffic light symbols that indicate calorie ranges. A green-light food option had 400 calories or less; a yellow-light option had 401 to 800 calories; and a red-light option had 801 calories or more.

Based on the customer’s receipts and interviews with the restaurant staff, researchers found that those who ate in groups and received the menus with traffic light indications ordered healthier choices, showing a more positive effect of peer pressure. On the other hand, those who ordered a healthy choice like salad felt more satisfied with their meal if others in the group also ordered the same thing.

“The big takeaway from this research is that people were happier if they were making similar choices to those sitting around them,” study author Brenna Ellison says. “If my peers are ordering higher-calorie items or spending more money, then I am also happier, or at least less unhappy, if I order higher-calorie foods and spend more money.”

So the next time you’re planning to eat out, bring someone who can eat healthy with you. Eating with a friend is good, but eating healthy with a friend is even better.


(Photo by McKay Savage via Flickr Creative Commons)

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