Study: One-Pot Meals Make You Eat Less

Hello, stir-fry.

I have a cookbook lying around called One Pot Meals. The idea is that, well, all the recipes therein require just one pot to make. In six years of owning this cookbook (I think it was a wedding shower gift), I can’t say that I’ve cracked it open—not even once.

After reading this study, though, I might have to start pulling it off the shelf more frequently. Researchers at Cornell found that people tend to eat less when they’re served one-pot meals, like stir-fry, soup or stew. The idea is that the fewer individual food choices you’re given, the less you’ll eat.

Researchers used college students (of course) as their guinea pigs. In the first experiment, a group of 20 students were served buffet-style meals three times a week for two weeks. They were served one of three meal options at random: an entree with two sides (protein, a carbohydrate and veggie), a low-carb meal (protein and a veggie) or a vegetarian meal (a veggie and carb). They were told to take as much or as little as they wanted.

Guess what? When given three items on their plate (meal option #1), the students consumed the most in terms of quantity and calories. They consumed less when given the low-carb option and less still when given the vegetarian meal.

There’s more: In a second experiment, the students were given foods served either individually or mixed all together in a stir-fry or pasta dish. If you read the title of this post, you already know the outcome: the students consumed more when the food was served individually rather than as one-pot meals. Why? The researchers blame evolution:

“One idea is that we have evolved from creatures for whom the sight of food is the stimulus to eat, because they couldn’t store the food. I think that’s what these findings are representing, this mechanism that tells us ‘the more food is available, the more you have to eat it, because you never know when it’s not going to be there,’” says David Levitsky, nutritional sciences and psychology professor at Cornell.

“Unfortunately, evolution occurred before we invented the refrigerator. So now we have the refrigerator, the freezer, the vending machine, and this is in part why we’re getting fatter. Evolution requires hundreds of thousands of years. Vending machines, overnight.”

Your takeaway? Eat more stir-fry and soup; check out our recipes below. And mine? Crack open that dang cookbook already.

Be Well Philly’s One-Pot Recipes

>> Creamy carrot-ginger soup with shrimp
>> Pumpkin and squash chili
>> Chipotle butternut squash soup
>> Spicy tortilla soup
>> Quinoa shrimp risotto
>> Cool cucumber basil soup