Tips to eating less calories at restaurants


Did you know restaurants follow some tricks to encourage you to eat more? According to Deborah Cohen, a physician and senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, restaurants follow these advertising tricks to get us to order and eat more.

· They serve us bigger servings. If we see the food we usually eat it even if we are not hungry and it is more than we intended to eat.

· We do not usually rely on how much we have eaten during the day, or how hungry we are to make decisions on what we will eat.

· By offering combo meals we think we get a better value and it’s easy to order. But most people would only order two of the three items and would save themselves money and calories, if they ordered separately.

· The “sweet spot” on the menu is in the upper right-hand corner. More people choose items in that area of the menu. Restaurants also know we are more likely to choose items that appear first or last in a section of the menu. Highlighted or items in boxes are also more likely to get chosen.

· The more people you eat with the more food you are likely to consume.

· We tend to mimic the people we are with, seems to be part of socializing or fitting in.

· The more variety the more we are likely to eat. One study gave people only one type of pasta and another group three different types of pasta. All of the pasta tasted the same. However, the group getting the three different types of pasta ate more than the one getting only one type.

The same thing happens with cookies, crackers or snack foods.

· Showing you the desserts will get you to order dessert more often.

Will knowing any of this information influence your choices or actions the next time you eat out? With restaurant meals usually two to three times what we should be eating remember the tips above could help us to reduce the calories we eat at restaurants. Since most of us eat out often is it any wonder we are overweight.

I know I am going to start looking at the whole menu carefully, not order combo meals, cut portions in half and put half in a box before I start eating. What strategies are you going to use?

Pat Brinkman is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Family & Consumer Sciences.

By Pat Brinkman

OSU Extension Educator

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