Avoid Mindless Eating at the Buffet Table
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Want to avoid mindless eating? Serve healthy foods first. That’s the take-home message of a new study from Cornell University’s Brand and Food Lab.
The team of scientists, led by Brian Wansink (author of Mindless Eating) and Andrew Hanks, set up two, special buffet lines at a conference. Their goal: to see if the order in which foods are presented makes any difference in what—and how much--people eat.
The Order of Serving Food Matters
Turns out, the order in which food is offered makes a big difference--which could help you avoid mindless eating without even trying.
Here’s how it worked. In the study, 124 people were randomly assigned to one of two buffet lines. On one buffet table, seven foods were served, starting with high-fat fare: eggs with cheese, fried potatoes, bacon and cinnamon rolls. Fruit, low-fat yogurt and low-fat granola were placed last on the buffet table.
On the other table, the same food was offered in reverse order. So, the lower calorie, low-fat foods were presented first: fruit, low-fat yogurt and low-fat granola led the buffet line, followed by eggs with cheese, fried potatoes, bacon and cinnamon rolls.
Avoid Mindless Eating by Reaching for the Healthy Food First
Get this: The study found that 86 percent of diners chose fruit when it was offered first in the buffet line. When fruit was offered last on the buffet, just 57 percent of participants put it on their plates. Pretty striking, don’t you think?
In fact, the first food in both buffet lines shaped what participants chose to eat in both groups. So 75 percent of participants chose eggs with cheese when they were the first offering, compared with just 29 percent who put them on their plates when they were offered last.
What’s more, the study, which is being published in the journal, the Public Library of Science One, showed that the first three items on each buffet table set the tone for what was on diners’ plates. Those three foods accounted for two thirds of what participants chose to eat.
So here’s the bottom line: if you want to eat healthy without even thinking about it, put the healthy choices on the table ahead of the higher-calorie, low-fat fare whether it’s the buffet line or the dining table at home. (Worried about your own mindless eating? Take this quiz to see how you rank.)
With the holiday season just around the corner, how do you plan to avoid mindless eating? I’d love to hear your tips. Comment here, or e-mail me at .
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