Dieters, take note! Eating in an ‘open concept kitchen’ with greater visibility and convenience of food access may make you eat more, a new study suggests.
According to Kim Rollings, assistant professor at University of Notre Dame in the US, dining environments can have even more serious consequences for eating behaviours.
Rollings and Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist from Cornell University in the US conducted the study with 57 college students.
The study made use of folding screens to manipulate the arrangement of kitchen and dining areas during the service of buffet-style meals, and two-way mirrors for the unobtrusive observation of variously sized groups of student diners.
“The results of our study suggest that the openness of a floor plan, among many other factors, can affect how much we eat. Eating in an ‘open concept kitchen,’ with greater visibility and convenience of food access, can set off a chain reaction. We are more likely to get up and head towards the food more often, serve more food and eat more food,” Rollings said.
Rollings noticed that each time college students in the study got up to get more food, they ended up eating an average of 170 more calories in the “open” than in the “closed” floor plan kitchen.
“These results have important implications for designers of and consumers in residential kitchens; college, workplace and school cafeterias and dining areas; and buffet-style restaurants,” she said.
“Open-concept plans put kitchens on display, which is great for entertaining, but not necessarily for our waistlines.
“Serving food out of sight from diners in an open kitchen, serving food from a counter in a closed kitchen rather than from a dining table, and creating open kitchens that have the ability to be enclosed may help US adults maintain their weight,” Rollings said.
She said the study findings have important implications not only for college and university students, but also for people who need to eat in health care, group home and military settings.
The study was published in the journal Environment and Behaviour.