We Eat 92 Percent of the Food on Our Plates

Serving size is destiny, a new study finds. 
More

Consider: You are at a local China Sun buffet, purveyor of wonder, merchant of mu shu. You snap up a plate and eagerly start piling on your favorite food item. It is shrimp lo mein. It is glistening with oil of indeterminate provenance. It is MSG-free.

It is ... overlarge. Even you realize that what you've amassed is far too much for one sitting. You tell yourself you will eat only part of it, thus saving room for the boneless spare ribs or perhaps some chicken in the style of General Tso.

But will you really stop midway through your noodle Everest?

A new study suggests that it might be harder than you imagine. For the paper, published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers examined 14 studies that looked at how much of the food on their plates people actually ate.

It turns out study participants consumed 92 percent, on average, of what was before them. They ate slightly less (81 percent) when the food was unhealthy—possibly because unhealthy food is more calorically dense and thus fills people up faster.

Surprisingly, subjects ate more of the "continuous foods," like cereal or pasta (93 percent) than "unitary" foods, such as carrot sticks (72 percent). And in another counterintuitive finding, people ate more when they were alone and not distracted (97 percent) than when they were watching TV or talking to people (89 percent).

So if you really want to cut calories, try eating a bunch of little pieces of something healthy while watching House of Cards. Or limit yourself to the Sun's "Diet Menu," with its "Bean Curd w. Vegetable." Mmmm.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Crazy Tech Idea Could Become Real?

"There could be great intelligence enhancements, like infinite memory."


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In