The holidays are about family get-togethers, finding just the right gift for your loved ones, and reflecting on the past year. OK, enough already. The holidays are all about food.
Researchers from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh were eager to find out just how much it's about the food. They analyzed two years of data to see if eating habits were different on holidays versus regular days and weekends. Overall habits are different, with many people considering some holidays a chance to truly go for the gusto.
People's eating behavior, according to the study, may vary depending on the type of holiday (an "eating holiday," such as Christmas, versus a "civic holiday," such as Columbus Day), and how they approach it. The day could be centered on food-centric activities, such as dinners and parties, or on social events that are more about activities and less about food. Plus, during holidays people may take longer to eat, have more food available, and more variety, which can also affect behavior. When people know a big meal is coming up they may plan their eating strategy, consuming less at other meals. Still others make it a point to cut back altogether during the holidays.
Because several of these routines result in big, calorie-dense meals, the researchers recommend that nutritional guidelines, which typically suggest the same diet for every day, recognize that people have different habits on weekends and holidays. In the study, the authors wrote, "Consumers could be asked to provide their food consumption data through an online diary, and then based on an analysis of baseline intake levels, the users could be provided with separate caloric recommendations for weekdays, weekends, and eating holidays."
Tips for controlling holiday eating, they added, should concentrate on having fewer choices and making portions and even plate sizes smaller.
The study appears in the fall issue of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.
-- Jeannine Stein
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