How to Eat Less: Don't Put Food on the Table

When it comes to eating less, location matters — serving location that is.

People who serve themselves at the kitchen counter instead of at the table eat fewer calories, a new study finds.

The results, from the "Serve Here; Eat There" study led by Brian Wansink of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, could present a new strategy for overweight individuals who want to cut down on their calories.

"Quite simply, it is a case of 'out of sight, out of mind,'" Wansink explained. "When we kept the serving dishes off the table, people ate 20 percent fewer calories. Men ate close to 29 percent less."

Presumably, leaving serving dishes on the counter reduced the number of times a person refilled his or her plate.

The same strategy can be used to help increase the consumption of healthier foods, Wansink said.

"If fruits and vegetables are kept in plain sight, we'll be much more likely to choose them, rather than a piece of cake hidden in the refrigerator."

Dining environment, plate size, portion size, and other hidden cues that determine what, when and how much we eat are familiar topics in Wansink's work. He is the author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" (Bantam, 2006).

The results were presented at this week's Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, Calif.