The Dangers of Self-Serve

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Self-serve. It’s like the DIY of dining out. From buffet-style to “weighing in”, the growth of self-serve restaurants seems unlimited. Gainesville has been flooded with places that offer this dining style, with restaurants like Asian Buffet, Mochi, Sushi Chao, Genghis Grill, Red Mango, and Buffet City popping up on every street corner. Of course, there’s a reason these quick and easy restaurants have become a top pick for many hungry Gators. They’re delicious, cheap and give us exactly what we love; options. But like all good things, there’s a catch; the “weigh in” at the register may involve more than just your plate. 
Portion sizes are hard enough to get right, but add in a grumbling stomach and seemingly endless amounts of food and just watch your willpower crumble. Dining by self-serve is like grocery shopping when hungry; it’s hard to know when to stop.
What was supposed to be a guilt-free trip to Mochi suddenly turns into a whopping $10 bowl of frozen goodness that—of course—would be a waste not to finish. And don’t even get me started on the quick Asian buffets. If carbs were drugs, those noodles would send someone to rehab. “But it was so delicious!” my stomach cries. Meanwhile, my thighs are crying for another reason…
So, what are the facts? Over the past few decades, portion sizes have increased - and so has America’s waistline. Large amounts of cheap food have distorted our view on what a “normal” meal should look like.
Just to give you a clue, twenty years ago the average hamburger weighed about 1.6 ounces and was 333 calories. Today, burgers weigh as much as 8 ounces (that’s a 500 percent increase!) and are approximately 590 calories. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, when offered these larger portions, 67 percent of Americans succumbed to overeating. Furthermore, many people expected the increased meal sizes and were dissatisfied if less was served.
Given these statistics, self-serve is practically a recipe for disaster. Most of us have no idea how much to put on our plate, or if we do then we’re practically tricked into adding more. Whether you’re trying to eat your money’s worth or your eyes are simply bigger than your stomach, overeating at self-serve restaurants has become part of the package.
Now, ready for the kicker? It doesn’t have to be. Believe it or not, with a little willpower and these seven easy portion-size tips, your next trip to Sushi Chao can be as it was intended - painless.

  1. Lean Meat: About 3 ounces is all you need, which is the size of a deck of cards.
  2. Pasta: Thinking about filling for your oversized bowl to the brim? Think again. Pasta should be equivalent to a scoop of ice cream.
  3. Vegetables or Fruit: This one gets me every time; correct portion is the size of your fist.
  4. Baked Potato: Should be about the size of a hockey puck.
  5. Steamed Rice: If you can fill a cupcake wrapper with it, you’re good to go! (Shout out to you Asian Buffet).
  6. Cheese: Should only be the size of a pair of dice.
  7. Ice Cream (or Fro-Yo, for all you Mochi lovers): Measures to about half of a tennis ball.

So there you have it. Whether your next trip out to eat involves a full-scale buffet or a quick stop for dessert, you can go with the confidence that you’re eating smart. Happy dining!

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