The Effects of Buffet-Style Eating

By Renee Rogers RD, LDN

There is no denying that food choices and eating habits have changed dramatically over the past 100 years, especially in America and other wealthy nations. Today you will find a wider variety of convenient and affordable foods than ever before. Our cupboards, supermarket shelves, and restaurant kitchens are bursting with an unbelievable array of food choices. While this may seem like a good thing, it comes at a price.

Research shows that having a large number of choices in front of us nearly always leads to overconsumption. In fact, the rise in obesity has been linked with the greater prevalence of easily accessible and affordable food.

Increasing the variety of a food increases how much everyone eats. A study at Penn State shows that people who were offered an assortment of three different flavors of yogurt consumed 23 percent more than people who were only offered one flavor. Our senses and taste buds get numbed if they continually experience the same stimulus, which is why the first bite of anything is always the best. Over time, our senses get tired of a food, such as ice cream. But if we add more flavors or additional toppings to the ice cream, our taste buds get interested again and we are up for some additional bites.

However, small changes in your environment may lessen your tendency to overeat and reduce your chance of gaining weight. Here are some top tips to help steer clear of the pitfalls that come with too many choices.

  1. The Rule of 3
    Limit variety at a meal and you will limit consumption and lower overall caloric intake, which leads to weight loss. A smart strategy is to prepare no more than 3 items and never have more than 3 items on your plate at a time. This applies perfectly to buffet-style eating too. A good rule of thumb is to have 50% of your plate fruits and vegetables, 25% of your plate whole grains, and 25% of your plate lean protein.
  2. Mini Size your Dishes
    Big dishes and big spoons are big trouble. The bigger the dish the bigger the serving of food you will put on your plate and the more food you will eat. Swap your platter-size dishware for medium sized 9- or 10- inch plates at home and opt for the smaller appetizer size plate at buffet style eating. You will eat less and be just as satisfied.
  3. Start with a Salad
    Research shows that eating a salad before a meal increases satiety and reduced amount of calories consumed during the meal. Whether you are at home or a buffet-style restaurant, start your meal off with a salad full of veggies and a low calorie dressing.
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