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Extra Helpings: Out of Sight, Out of Mouth

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Eating dinner as a family is very important to me. I grew up in a home where we sat down for dinner together for dinner, and I've carried that tradition on to my own family. I also grew up in a house where the food was left on the stove, you served yourself and brought your plate to the table. That's a tradition I've also carried on, although it's been more of a habit than an intentional practice. New research shows that practice could be saving my family from eating more than we really want or need.

The study, from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, looked at how many calories were consumed if food was left on the table during mealtime, versus serving from the kitchen counter. When serving dishes were kept off of the table, people ate 20 percent fewer calories. Men actually ate even less, with a 29 percent reduction. I think it's much easier to grab a second helping of food without thinking about it when it's sitting right in front of you. If you have to get up and walk across the room for another portion, you'll think about it more. Am I really still hungry? Do I really need to eat more?

The same strategy can be used to encourage healthy foods. It's easier to grab a piece of fruit when it's sitting in a bowl on the table versus having to search through the refrigerator to find it. I always try to keep fruit and vegetables easily accessible during meal times and for snacks. If we've got cookies in the house, I keep them in the cupboard. (That's really for my own benefit!) Even though I know they are there, it's less tempting to eat them if they aren't calling my name from the kitchen counter.

Do you leave serving dishes on the counter or at the table during meal time? Do you notice that you tend to eat more when they are left on the table?

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I definitely eat more when the food is sitting right there in front of me. Holidays at my sister-in-law's are the worst. We sit in the kitchen with all the great food right there and it's hard to stop eating it. Report
I grew up with eating out of serving style dishes, communally. It was when I had to transition to the kitchen/clear division of first and second helping plates at the college cafeteria that made me gain a lot of weight. Suddenly, the food seemed like it was less plentiful, and I think I went into fear of starvation/horde more and eat more mode.

But these days, I'm back home and have lost the extra fluff. (When I go study abroad and have to subside off a cafeteria again, I will have to constantly remind myself not to think like before).

When I have to dish up specific individual portions, I always end up over or under guessing, and then being unhappy at the consequences. At dinner, we all have a bowl of rice or other serving of carbs, and then chopsticks to eat until we are satisfied. Report
Great suggestion and so true. I think I will leave the vegetables on the table, because I am always telling the kids to have a second helping of those;) Report
This study & blog proves the point of why The No S Diet works (see my page for SparkTeam icon). Report
growing up we were always served from the pots and pans on the stove,but also had to clean our plates "because there were children starving on the other side of the wolrd,who would love to have that food". In my adult years,leaving food on my plate was the hardest thing to do and caused me much anxiety. I solved this dilema when i realized i could use a smaller plate and less food. continuing this practice as i eat healthier is helping tremendously in my weight loss journey. we also leave the food in the kitchen out of sight/out of mind(mouth) like the blog states. Report
That is a great suggestion for a little thing you can do to keep calories in check. All the little things do add up. :) Report
One of the best tips going. I grew up where all dishes were placed on the table in front of us and we'd eat as much as we wanted, but only if we cleaned up the first plate. Now, I leave the dishes in the kitchen and serve each person their own plate with portions according to their need/want. If they want more, than can usually get it themselves, although due to their age and or ability I sometimes get the additional portions for them. After the meal, I wait at least 20 minutes before storing any leftovers so that my brain tells me I really am full and don't need to eat more--this has really helped me stop the after-dinner grazing.

If you're eating in a restaurant where you can't really measure a portion size, try this tip: Don't eat a serving of anything (except salad greens, etc.) that is too big to fit in the palm of your hand. Eyeball it, divide it with your knife/fork, ask immediately for a take-out container, transfer the overage to the container, then enjoy your meal. If you don't want to take the food home with you, leave it--they will just toss it away but it won't be on your plate sitting in front of you and tempting you to eat more. If you're at a banquet, etc., where you might not want or be able to request a take-out container, cut out a proper "palm-sized" portion, eat that portion, then immediately signal for the waiter to come remove your plate or put your bread plate on top of the remaining food. At a friend's or family's house, simply tell them that you are trying to control your portions and (1) to let you dish your own food on your plate--again using the palm-sized idea or (2) if they do prepare and serve individual servings, ask if they have a small take-home container because the food really is delicious and you'll have the rest of your serving tomorrow for lunch, etc. At least this way, they will know it isn't that you dislike what they've served. Report
As a single person, I serve my plate (measure/weigh portions), and then put any leftovers in single serving containers. I usually put leftovers away before I begin my meal so they are cold before I'm tempted. It also keeps me from nibbling while I clean up the kitchen. Report
excellent advise - will do that moving forward. Report
The SEE FOOD diet is true - if I see food, I am more tempted to eat it!

I like to serve from the kitchen, and don't keep a serving dish of food in front of me. At restaurants, I move the basket of bread to the far side of the table, or ask that it not be brought to the table at all. When I am finished eating, I flag down the server to remove my plate or get a to-go box. Ou of sight, out of mind is true! Report
Oh, I'll admit it... Whenever Thanksgiving or Christmas or some other family even rolls around, I'm notorious for "picking" if the plates are left out. I really do wish folks would put away the food as soon as we were finished eating. Otherwise, if you leave out the turkey, I will pick at the carcass looking for bits to eat. ;)

Fortunately, at home, I make what I need to eat and that's it. that's the nice thing about being single. I can just cook for one. that means, I can put away any leftovers as soon as I'm done.
I did eat at the table with food growing up, and we did enjoy dinner and conversation together. but when it was just us kids there wasn't much conversation and we just wanted to run out and play. no extra eating. However when it was a holiday with extra company, extra conversation. the more talking, the more eating there was. Report
My Nana uses to just yell "Cafeteria!" when we all gathered at her home for Sunday Dinner. We'd go to the stove or counter, wherever she had the food, grabbed a plate and she dished some food and off we went, the kids in the living room, the grownups at the kitchen table. Her house was very tiny! My mother, once we bought a house with an actual dining room, puts the food on the table and we eat, then we pick at what else looks good on the table. The only time we don't all eat at Mom's table is holidays, when the dining room table serves as the buffet and there's like almost 20 of us. In my home, our dining room is for storage and hubby's music room (he's a professional musician and must practice. Plus, our condo is almost as tiny as my Nana's house). We have a tiny, galley style kitchen with almost NO counter space. So, we dish out our portions and retire to the family room to eat. I know, I know, eating in front of the TV isn't supposed to be the smart thing to do, but...I am pretty much forced to figure out if I want to go through the trouble of lifting myself off the couch to go back into the kitchen to grab another helping. And most of the time, it isn't worth the extra calories and effort. Report
It is our tradition to eat family meals together. We used to leave the food at the stove but I got tired of being like the mom in "A Christmas Story," always having to jump up from the table to get more food for other people because they refused to get up and get it for themselves. I suppose I could just refuse to get it for them... Report
Unless the food is very messy to eat, we generally serve ourselves from the stove and then eat in the living room. It does cut down on overeating. When we go to the inlaws for holiday meals, I'm always eating more because the food is right there to get more from. Report
this is a really great idea... i've never thought to do this! i'm going to try it tonight! thanks! :) Report
I usually serve from the stove, but once in awhile I serve family style at the table....and definitely this way for company. I never thought about it in this way, but I admit I am the first one to "pick" at extra food in the serving dishes! I used to think I was being lazy by not putting food out in bowls for my family (extra dishes!) but now I see I am doing us all a favor! Thanks, this was an eye-opener. Report
This is so true. Report
so simple but its so true Report
I have done this for years because our family is growing out of the house we are in and space is limited. I find if I just sit still and talk to the family and let my food settle I don't
want more, but if I get up right away I will take seconds. Stalling/delaying works for me. Report
I've never thought of it like that before. I got into the habit of putting the meal options out on the table to help my kids to make choices from what is offered - but there is nothing saying we can't do the same with the food away from the table. I'll try this. Thanks! Report
We do half half. I now use a small plate and try not to eat more unless I'm still hungry. DH loves food and if it's good, it don matter where u put it. My kids r too little 2 and 1, but we shall see. DH is very small and active, so weight is not a prob for him. Report
We serve from the stove except on holidays. Report
A joke I used to make was that I was fat because of pitty, it was a pitty to throw away what my children left on their plate and ate it. I had to learn to serve them smaller dishes and have them ask for more if they wanted more, and also had to learn to cook exact amounts for the number of people that was going to eat. Report
I cook for one usually. However when cooking for my family or guests I guess I do put the food on the table for them to server themselves. I think it is nicer that way. Report
I only bring the veggies/fruit and water to the table. The main entree and carb sides stay in the kitchen. Everyone can eat all the fruits and veggies and water they want without getting up again. If you want more rice/pasta/bread you have to get it yourself. Many times the kids will just eat more broccoli! Report
I always dish the food out and ensure i give them the appropriate portion my children are young 8,6, and 1 but i explain to them about portion control i never cook extra.I also never let my children finish anyone elses food off.I find when i do parties with boufett type food i always pick and double my calories so i now make a plate up and eat last so i'm less tempted because people will see me with my portion and match that instead of the mounds they'd usually eat.It helps everyone.

Small mistake you may want to fix: "for dinner together for dinner" Report
Wow, and here I thought I was just being lazy by not bringing the food into the dining room! Lately it's been about half and half, but I've noticed when the dishes are on the table, they will actually get cleaned up after dinner. It is less likely they will get cleaned up if they stay in the kitchen, lol! Report
With 7 people and a very small kitchen, I feel I have no choice but to bring it to the table. I do leave the main course on the counter/bar that is behind where I sit at the table. I try to cook high carb foods such that there aren't any seconds, anyway,or put up any that is left before calling everyone to the table. I also cook extra veggies. This way, I have the healthy stuff to have for my lunch, but avoid eating too much of the high-carb foods that I try to limit! Report
Always serve my dh and myself from the stove, only put out food for holidays or company meals. Hubby eats sitting in the recliner while watching tv, and I eat holding the plate in my lap while watching tv, we don't even sit at the table anymore when it's just us. Been that way for years, eating healthy meals or unhealthy meals. Report
I think leaving the food in the kitchen makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the tip. Report
This does make sense. I do prefer to set an attractive table. Of late I have been preparing attractive plates instead, preferring to set the rainbow plate.
DH usually admires the plate so that is even better.Good suggestion , Thanks Pat in Maine. Report
I usually serve @ the table, but sometimes my husband will say to serve from the kitchen b/c it's easier. I on the other hand, weigh & measure everything, so I do ok. Report
I do leave food on the table. I never thought about it before but we probably do eat more with it on the table. Thanks for the tip. I am going to try this. Report
I do this all the time! It just makes more sense. Report
We always serve from the stove, with anything microwaved in its dish on the counter. I serve out my measured portions and that is it. Husband gets the rest. I grew up with this, as it saves dishes, and the food stays hot!!! I hate luke-warm food that is supposed to be hot food--I even heat up our plates in the oven for a few minutes on low temp. Anything that is supposed to be cold is on a separate plate, all measured out. Nothing worse than cooled vegies or meat, ugh!!! Report
Yes,I always leavvve our food on the stove for each person o serve themself.I did not groeeew up doing that.I worked 2nd shift for25 years and I woukd cook my familys supper.
I also do it at our holiday meal.My table is small and if I put all the holiday food on the table there would not be room for plates Report
I find i eat more when the serving plates are on the table and so does my husband . it there is more in the bowl he eats it . keeps reaching for the bowl until it is empty . I am planning to use it for another meal and he is thinking i am going to eat more then i dont have to have another meal . Report
In our house, we only bring the serving dishes to the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's how I was brought up. Who knew it helped with caloric intake. :-) Report
Terrible etiquette, LOL!

Could be effective, though. I might modify a bit, though, bringing enough to the table for the meal and packing up the leftovers immediately. Then you'd have to go into the fridge and break into the leftovers to get seconds. Report
It is nice to have the food at the table - but yes if it is there - just a little more...
Just dh & I now - we tend to leave it on the counter - but will occasionally go back for seconds... Report
We eat eiththe food at the the table. I always like to leave enough left over so my husband and I can take the leftovers for lunch in the next few days. i also plan the next days meal using left overs if we prepare something large like a whole chicken or a roast. Report
my problem was alway if i knew there was extra food i would eat it until there was no longer any left. but now i cook just for myself and i only cook what i am allowed to eat under my calorie tracker. it is so much easier to clean my plate and to know there is no more. Report
As a child I always learned to clean up my plate and unfortunately, as an adult have extended that to mean I should clean up the serving plate so there aren't any leftovers. Now, as soon as I've served the appropriate portion, I put the rest into a plastic container to go into the fridge for another meal. Report
I grew up with food being dished up from the pots on the stove. I continued this practice when I started my family. I find that I cook less and eat less. I have also learned to use a lunch plate and not a dinner plate.
The only time I put food on the table is when we have guest for dinner. Report
Growing up ... poverty. Once or twice a week, we had chicken or steak, the rest of the time it was grilled cheese with tomato soup. Mom made just enough for each of us and served up the plates on the table so one of us didn't eat the others' share.
Today, my step (who struggles with anxiety, depression, impulse control issues) lives with us & guess what? We have meat & veggies & starch every night but I pull mine out for tomorrow's lunch, then serve it up or she'll eat it all & neither of us will get any ...
I like the bowl of fruit on the table thing ... if you're going to gorge, fruit's the best choice :o) Report
It makes no difference what's just sitting around; I'll eat it. If Skittles are in sight I'll eat them; even though they're not my favorite. Leaving things around just leads to piecing on them. Report
Growing up my parents always left the food on the table, but when I started making my own food, I almost always only make enough for us to have that night, or if their are leftovers, I put them away immediately for another meal. If only I could do that when eating out! Report
The only time we have the serving dishes on the table is for holidays. Otherwise they stay on the counter or stove and are used for leftovers. I think it helps a lot. Report
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