Have you ever noticed how much you over-indulge when you’re having dinner with a friend? Maybe you’re so enthralled in catching up that you don’t realize you’ve gone through two baskets of bread or chips before you’ve even ordered. It may make you feel a little guilty, and bloated, but it shouldn’t make you feel strange; when we eat with other people, we consume about 44% more food than we do when eating alone.
A study by de Castro discovered who we eat with directly impacts how we eat, and our level of indulgence. And it’s not just friends or acquaintances. Meals with spouses and family lead us to eat around 22% and 23% more, respectively. To put that into perspective, the average amount we’re referring to is about 91.7% of the food we put on our plates, according to a study out of the Columbia University’s Food and Brand Lab in New York City.
A study in the journal Obesity found when food is served from the dinner table, people consume 35% more over the course of a meal. It speaks to our desire to do as little as possible – when an additional helping requires leaving the table, people hesitate to go back for more. So when food is served family style, it’s all too easy to over-eat.
Family style starts out with good intentions
When you prepare a meal for a group of people, you fix more food to make sure there is enough for everyone. You put the food in bowls and on platters so people can reach it easily. While it’s nice to have things close-by, and the action of passing bowls from person to person can feel intimate and familial, the large serving plates moving around the table create peer pressure. No one wants to see left-overs on the plates because it seem to be a waste not to finish them all.
Family style dishes also try to fit the taste of family members in general, so in order to cover the basic items people like, you wind up with an excess of meat and carbs. Even if you refuse seconds, you’re automatically going to be eating more food than you need. So how to turn things around?
Plan more, serve less
Think about the last time you were bored. What did you do, instinctively? Chances are, you found something to snack on. When you don’t plan meals ahead of time and only make as much as you need, you tend to reach for more to avoid a lull in conversation. According to International Journal of Obesity, a little planning prior to eating can help control portions by determining the amount of food you eat before you get hungry.
If you know you have a habit of reaching for seconds, or even thirds, begin by putting less on your plate than you think you need. This allows you to opt for seconds without eating more than you would’ve otherwise, but still feeling comfortable because you don’t have to say no to the food you’re feeling pressured to eat.
Whether you’re eating with friends in a restaurant that keeps bringing you bread or chips, or eating with your in-laws at a big table full of food, think ahead and take less than you think you need. Take your time eating, too. If you’re more aware of the amount you’re ingesting, and not just caught up in conversation, you’ll be less likely to over-indulge and still be able to enjoy your company.
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