There’s nothing better than spicing up date night with a rezzie at a dimly lit restaurant, candles casting a soft glow and your sweetie across the table. That is, of course, unless you’re trying to make healthy food choices. Then, that lovely dim lighting can quickly become your worst enemy. While dim lighting may cause you to eat more slowly (and thus eat less), it also causes you to make poor decisions when it comes to the health and nutrition of your food choices. There’s a glass-half-full way to look at that fact. A new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows that diners are 16-24 percent more likely to order healthy at brightly lit restaurants.

redhead woman in restaurant salad

To collect the data for the study, researchers surveyed 160 restaurant patrons at four different chain restaurant locations. Half of the diners were seated in brightly lit rooms and consistently ordered healthy options like grilled fish, fresh veggies and white meat. Those who were seated in dim rooms ended up ordering more fried foods and desserts. In fact, they ended up ordering 39 percent more calories total!

The reason why is quite simple: “We feel more alert in brighter rooms and therefore tend to make more healthful, forward-thinking decisions,” explains the study’s lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, from the University of South Florida. The team confirmed this by giving a follow-up group (700 students in total) seated in a dimly lit room caffeine placebos and alertness prompts. The results were the same as the first bright room diners: They also chose healthy foods off the menu.

So whether you’re eating at a spot that forces you to put on your shades or makes you bust out your reading specs, the best thing you can do for your health is remain alert and stay focused on making healthy options for your meal. Unless you’re totally alert when you’re ordering that brownie. All in moderation, right?

Do you find yourself ordering healthier options at well-lit restaurants? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know what you think!

(Photos via Getty)