When I think of soft lighting and music, I think of a romance, but Cornell University researchers used these ambiance enhancers at a fast-food restaurant and found that they curbed intake. While the restaurant makeover didn’t change what people ordered, it did cause them to rate their meals as more enjoyable. And they ate 18 percent less: 775 calories rather than 949. That's significant because cutting 174 calories at just one meal a day could result in losing between 10 and 20 pounds in a year’s time.

In another recent post, I shared research about how the color green improved exercise endurance, and other studies show that your eating atmosphere does indeed make an impact on how you dine. Here’s how:

1. You’re more likely to keep eating in a colder climate.

2. Unpleasant odors tend to suppress eating, but research shows that an enticing aroma  won’t neccessarily trigger you to eat more.

3. If you like the music that's playing while you’re dining, you may be more likely to keep eating, and if you dislike the music, you’ll probably leave sooner.

4. You’re more likely to leave a restaurant sooner if the lighting is harsh.

5. The more effort it takes, the less you’ll eat. For example, one study found that in a cafeteria, people ate more ice cream when the lid of the ice cream cooler was left open than when it was closed. Another found that people drank more water when the pitcher was on the table.

6. Eating with other people can impact if you’ll eat, how much, and how quickly. In one study, subjects ate 33 percent more when they dined with someone else than when they ate solo, and, according to the research, the more people you dine with, with the more you’ll eat. Check out my previous posts about social eating triggers and a study about how women copycat each other’s eating patterns

Pretty interesting stuff, huh? What’s your take? Are you aware of what environmental factors tend to make you eat more or less? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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