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Trick your guests into reasonable eating on Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011

Since we’ve been talking about non medical ways to stay healthy, and it’s almost Thanksgiving, let’s talk about overeating during the holidays.

Ezra Klein wrote a great column a few years ago about sneaky ways to modify behavior at what can be a giant feeding frenzy.  Klein interviewed Duke economist Dan Ariely about “how he would set up his Thanksgiving feast to limit overeating without having to exercise self-control.”

At the time, some readers accused Klein of being anti-food, or some sort of Grinch. But come on folks, you can enjoy a nice meal AND try a few techniques to keep eating under control.

Here are Ariely’s suggestions summarized-

  • Eat with chopsticks! They make you eat slower and take smaller bites.
  • If that’s too extreme, use smaller plates and utensils. “We judge portions by how much is left rather than how full we feel.”
  • Put food far away. Instead of putting it in the middle of the table, put it in the kitchen so people have to get up to serve themselves seconds.
  • Serve soup as a first course. Guest will fill up on a dish that’s relatively low in calories and eat less of the heavier foods.
  • Offer options that are low calorie, high fiber, or high in water content. Guests can serve themselves heaping servings of broccoli rabe, feel satisfied, and not pack on the pounds.
  • Only serve food that’s home made. “In 1900, it was hard to snack on potato chips because it was time-consuming for a member of the household to make potato chips.” Now, eating unhealthy food is as easy as opening a bag.
  • Don’t worry too much about it. Ok, you eat some extra calories during one holiday meal. It’s more important to change your overall behavior for the meals you eat the rest of the year.
  • But if you want to be drastic, “wear a very tight shirt.”

And with that, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

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