Think small and survey options to beat the buffet table

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 8th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Barbecues, potlucks, picnics and grill-outs galore — summer is chock full of opportunities to gorge on fresh fare at the buffet table. But some people do manage to keep their munching under control. They’re not superhuman, but they do practice a few science-tested tactics, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

If you want to enjoy eating but don’t want to blow your calorie budget at the buffet table, simply use a smaller plate and survey the spread before you dig in.

Researchers painstakingly gathered data from more than 300 buffet patrons at Chinese restaurants. They observed details like what kind of utensils they used (chopsticks or forks), how far they sat from the table, whether they sat facing the buffet table, and even how many times they chewed before swallowing. They also estimated each person’s body mass index, or B-M-I.

The stealth scientists found that skinnier people had two habits in common: circling the table to survey their options and choosing a smaller plate when available — in fact, they were seven times more likely to do this than heavier diners. Modern dinner plates are enormous compared with those used in the last century. Restaurant patrons who reconned the buffet first also made fewer trips to the buffet table and sat farther away from it.

No one wants to pass up dad’s famous fried chicken or grandma’s delicious lemon pie at the next family barbecue, but portion control is key to enjoying favorite foods high in fat, sugar and calories. If you just can’t pass up every item on the table choose a spoonful of each and enjoy each bite. When dining out choose half or kid-sized portions or ask for half of the dish to be boxed up before it’s served — out of sight, out of mind. Keep in control and your waistline will thank you.