The secret to retaining self-control at a buffet? Eat the FRUIT first: People who start with healthier foods are less tempted by junk later on
- Dieters who started with junk food consumed 31% more food during meal
- Around 85 per cent of people offered fruit at the start of a buffet took it
- But if offered last, only 58 per cent took it – and ate more calorific options
A buffet table groaning under the weight of enticing treats can break even the most determined dieter.
But new research claims to have cracked how to resist temptation – and it’s all about food order.
U.S. researchers say that putting healthy foods such as fruit and yoghurt at the front of a buffet can encourage people to choose them instead of fatty and fried meals.
This not only means they eat fewer calories – they are also less tempted by fatty foods later on.
If, on the other hand, dieters start with junk food, they eat 31 per cent more food over the course of the meal.
The researchers, Dr Brian Wansink and Dr Andrew Hanks at Cornell University, say that the first items we encounter end up making up two-thirds of the plate.
They got people attending a conference to line up in front of a seven-item breakfast buffet.
There were two separate tables just over 50 feet apart, arranged in an opposite order, unbeknown to the diners.
On one line, cheesy eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, low-fat granola, low-fat yogurt, and fruit were served in that exact order.
On the other line, the order was reversed such that fruit was served first, followed by low-fat yogurt, low-fat granola, and so on.
As they entered the dining area, the 124 attendees were randomly assigned to choose their breakfast from one of the two tables – and were told they could only make one trip to the buffet line.
The researchers found that the order in which food was presented really did affect whether a diner picked it up.
For example, 86.4 per cent of diners took fruit when it was offered first – but only 54.8 per cent took fruit when it was offered last.
In the same vein, 75.4per cent took cheesy eggs when presented first, while 28.8 per cent took them when they were offered last.
‘The first three food items a person encountered in the buffet comprised 66 per cent of their total plate, regardless of whether the items were high or low-calorie foods,’ said Wansink
Of a person’s plate, 65.7 per cent was filled with at least one of the first three foods in the line.
There was also an interesting link between the first food offered and what diners took after that – something known as the ‘trigger effect’.
People who took cheesy eggs first were more likely to load up with potatoes and bacon.
But people who took fruit first were no more likely to go on and select certain foods.
‘Placing less-healthful foods first all but encourages diners to select the next two calorically dense and highly delicious potatoes and bacon,’ said Dr Hanks said.
‘There’s an easy take-away here for us…always start at the healthier end of the buffet,’ said Wansink, ‘Two-thirds of your plate will be the good stuff!’
The study is published in the journal PLOS One.