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Just give us a menu, then sit back and watch the fun

April 22, 2009 | 11:17 am

Salad We're not confused or irrational diners -- we're just complex.

Among the recent findings about our restaurant-going behavior:

* Simply knowing that salad is available can make us more likely to choose French fries. Our thinking apparently goes something like this: "Hey, I did my part -- I considered the salad." Here's the take from Time. And here are some research details from Duke University.

* Food variety makes us more likely to underestimate portion size. That is to say: Buffets are dangerous. Here's the take from the Examiner. And here's the release from the Journal of Consumer Research.

* And from the "not all is lost" front: We might eventually make better choices if restaurants provided nutrition information. Folks who were given nutrition facts after they made their food choices tended to have negative reactions toward their food if "low-calorie" turned out not be be so "low-calorie." They didn't really expect food billed as great-tasting to be very nutritious, so there was little effect there. Here's the release for the study, to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Come to think of it, I think I'll have the fries.

Credit: Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times