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Study: Want to eat better and lose weight? Find new friends

Many of us have resolved to eat healthier and lose weight this year. But, according to a new study, revamping your diet doesn’t need to include reading nutrition facts labels, shopping at farmers’ markets, or cooking more meals at home. Rather, the secret to nutritious eating may come down to who you eat with.

The study
We all know we should keep portion sizes small and eat a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Even though we know this type of diet is best, few of us eat this way in reality.

A team of British experts set to find out if social norms dictate the way we eat, which would make them partly responsible for the obesity epidemic. They published their findings in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The researchers reviewed 15 existing studies published in 11 publications that examined peoples’ eating habits and who or what influenced their food intake. Eight of the studies looked at whether or not people were influenced by the amount of food that people in their social circles eat, and seven studies examined if people were influenced by the type of food their peers eat. There was statistically significant evidence that social norms influenced both the amount and type of food we eat regularly.

This means if your family believes fried and processed foods — and having second helpings — make an acceptable dinner, then you’re more likely to feel this way – and eat this way – too. But if your group of friends is into eating in moderation and drinking green smoothies, eating Paleo, or knowing how to cook – and pronounce – quinoa, you’re likely to follow a similar diet.

What’s more, researchers believe these findings are true even when you eat alone. Meaning you don’t have to dine with your peers to eat the way they do — eating the way others find socially acceptable simply becomes a habit.

How to apply the research
If your spouse, parents, and friends regularly hit up fast food joints for their meals, take heart. This does not mean you have to abandon your loved ones just because they make poor nutrition choices.

Instead, ask them get healthy with you. Challenge each other to eat fruits and vegetables with each meal and check in with one another daily, swap healthy recipes you find, or host a potluck and encourage everyone to contribute a nutritious dish. Work together to give your diets and makeover, and you — and your friends and family — will fare better in the long run.

What do you think of this research? Do you eat the same way as your friends do? I’d say on a whole I do, but I also have friends that eat completely differently than I do.

Written by Jen Matz.

Related: Vegetable spotlightsHealthy recipes for runners