Thursday, May 2, 2013

Myth: It’s impossible to avoid overeating at buffets.

Answer: BUSTED!

buffet spread and plate of food
You might think that the answer to not overeating at all-you-can-eat buffets is just willpower, but there are some strategies that could work for anyone. In fact, watching what and how some people eat at buffets has given us some helpful tips. Dr. Brian Wansink at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab had 30 trained observers watch the eating behaviors of over 300 people at buffets in six states. What did they find?

  • Thin people were more likely to look over all the choices at the buffet before serving themselves. So instead of heaping everything from the buffet on your plate, look at all your choices before serving yourself. Ask yourself what you really want to eat.

  • Thin people also used smaller plates. This is a strategy that has been widely recommended and used for everyday meals too. So when you’re at a buffet or when you’re serving yourself at home, use a smaller plate – it will make it look like you have more food on your plate.

  • Lastly, thin people sat farther away from the buffet and chewed their food more than their heavier counterparts. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that I am more satisfied during meals when using mindful eating techniques like taking time to savor the food slowly and putting my utensils down between bites while chewing. This has definitely slowed down my eating, giving my body time to get those ‘I’m full’ signals, which results in eating less.

People of any size who engage in these behaviors are more likely to eat less at the buffet.

For more tips about mindful eating, check out the article How much are we eating? on

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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