Diners are more likely to order healthier food in a well-lit room and it has a lot to do with their level of alertness, a new study found.

So maybe it's good to limit those candle-lit dinners to only during special occasions, or better stay alert.

Findings showed that diners are 16 to 24 percent more likely to order healthier meals when the restaurant is well-lit. Lead author Dipayan Biswas, Ph.D. from the University of South Florida said diners feel more alert when dining in brighter rooms.

This higher level of alertness enabled diners to make healthier, "forward-thinking decisions" when dining out. The eye-opening findings were published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

In the study, the research team conducted a survey among 160 diners who frequented four casual dining restaurants in various locations.

The participants who dined in well-lit areas in the restaurants had higher chances of ordering healthy food options than unhealthy ones from the menu. These healthy food items included white meat, vegetables and baked or grilled fish. In terms of calories, sales records revealed that diners who sat in dimly lit areas ordered 39 percent more calories.

The research team replicated the same experiment four times among a total of 700 college students. These four lab studies showed the same results. In the four follow-up experiments, the student diners in dimly lit rooms were given a caffeine placebo were able to raise their alertness levels. Simply reminding the participants to be alert also produced the same results.

Given the observations, the researchers concluded that the level of alertness was the main reason diners were able to make healthier choices in well-lit areas.

"Dim lighting isn't all bad. Despite ordering less-healthy foods, you actually end up eating slower, eating less and enjoying the food more," said study co-author Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

Restaurant lighting is carefully designed to improve the place's ambiance and the diner's overall experience. Findings suggested that it can unconsciously nudge people to overindulge.

Wansink, who authored the book Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, suggested keeping yourself alert to prevent making unhealthy choices and overeating when dining in dimly lit establishments.

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