That's the advice from a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins, who this week released the results of a study on the impact that effort exerted can have on the desirability of a meal.
Mice were the hungry participants in this study, but the scientists are extrapolating their results to offer advice to humans -- especially dieters.
The ravenous rodents were give a choice between a sugary food or a starchy one, and forced to push down on a lever to obtain the repast. Gradually, the mice had to push the lever more times to get one of the items.
Next, the mice were transferred to an enclosure where both foods were up for grabs, no effort required. Researchers found that the mice preferred to dine on the food they'd exerted more effort for.
Even after repeating the experiment with low-calorie and high-calorie options, the mice opted for the low-cal fare when they'd been forced to toil to obtain it.
"In evolutionary terms, such mechanisms could benefit survival under conditions of scarcity," the study's authors explain, "when the chances of acquiring food are probably related to increased foraging effort."
So how might humans harness the appetitive influence of evolution? Those on a low-calorie diet might want to consider investing some serious time into a salad, rather than opting for a pre-made meal.
Of course, the human impulse to eat is associated with a complex array of factors -- from emotion to hormones. Already, several recent studies have linked elevated levels of the hormone ghrelin to increased pleasure responses from seeing food, prompting over-eating.
And unless you're pushing that shopping cart really freaking hard, it's probably not enough work to explain away those pints of ice cream as an evolutionary reaction.
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