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Stock photo, restaurant buffet

Is it really possible to treat oneself to an “all you can eat” buffet without excessively over-eating? Even the thought of such a thing may sound too good to be true. However, research shows the tricks of dining at a buffet without losing the battle of the bulge.

When watching one’s weight, the best choice may be to avoid buffets altogether. But with a little will power and a common sense approach, there’s no need to fear binge eating at a buffet restaurant or during holiday feasts.

Food is nourishment. Meals are a time that family and friends can gather and enjoy each other’s company while eating. No matter what type of restrictive diet you may or may not be on, you can still enter a buffet style restaurant knowing that you are in control of what – and how much – you choose to eat.

According to a recent study, large portion size combined with numerous food options are the two culprits that trick us into eating well past the point of being full. The more variety of dishes that are available, the more we tend to overeat.(1) This study also observed skinny patrons at all you can eat buffets and discovered how their eating behavior in these settings suggested exactly how it is possible to enjoy buffets without over-eating.

So here’s the “skinny” on how to avoid over-eating at buffets. First, you must note the plate sizes and choose a smaller plate if possible. Even more important than plate size is making the decision to choose what you will be eating - before you start piling food on your plate. Walk around the entire buffet once to look at the options, then serve yourself the dishes that you want most.

Chew your food well. Savor every morsel. This research observed that skinny patrons chewed a mouthful of food several times more than obese patrons.

They also found that obese patrons sat over fifteen feet closer to the buffet than skinny patrons, even though this did not seem to impact the number of visits to the buffet for either group.

American restaurants, not even buffets, are notorious for “all you can eat” specials on high fat meat or fried food options. Feeling like you need to take advantage of the money you have spent for your meal can add to the temptation of over-eating at buffets or elsewhere. Remember it is better to eat well and stop when you are full than to over-eat, thinking it is a good deal.

A final trick to avoid over-loading on calories at a buffet: be sure to fill up on salad, vegetables or soup before saving room for dessert.


(1)Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D., spokeswoman, American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director, food and brand lab, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, New Haven, Conn.; April 2013 American Journal of Preventive Medicine



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