The all-you-can eat buffet is a diet disaster waiting to happen. That’s because it has the three Cs that lead people to overeat. Convenience – food is within arm’s reach. Caloric – buffet foods are usually high-calorie. The final C: Choices – there’s a lot to choose from, which increases how much people eat because their taste buds don’t burn-out on one thing.

But, according to our friend Dr. Brian Wansink, from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab – it IS possible to enjoy the bounty of the buffet – without packing on the pounds – if you follow some rules. Here’s what Dr. Wansink found, after studying the behaviors of hundreds of people at all-you-can-eat buffets:

  • First: Choose smaller plates. In fact, slim people were 7 times more likely to grab a smaller plate, if it was available. And research has proven that when we have less room for food on our plate, we’ll consume fewer calories. Basically, we like to fill the space we have. Which is why people at a grocery store will fill a cart with food – even if they only came in for a handful of items. It plays on us psychologically – making us want to fill it. 

  • Also: Take a spin around the buffet before you even pick up a plate. People who do that are seven times less likely to overeat. Dr. Wansink observed that heavier people tended to pick up a plate right away, and then grabbed food right on down the line. But when we take the time to scout out the foods we really want, we’re more selective about what we eat – and we eat less. 

  • Also know this: WHERE you sit at the buffet matters. Because the study found that heavy people tend to sit an average of 16 feet closer to the buffet than thinner people. But when we see food – we want to eat it. And just looking at all that food tempts us to fill our plate again and again.