Eating Strategies

Do you eat the best thing first or save the best for last?  Most people fall into one of these two categories and according to Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating there is a simple economic explanation.  The people who eat the best thing first tend to have grown up as younger children from large families.  The people who save the best for last are more often first borns.  Need I say more?

Mindless Eating, by the way, masquerades as a diet book but it’s really about research design!  Highly recommended.


The people who save the best for last are more often first borns. Need I say more?

My siblings and I did lots of things to each other, but snatching food off each other's plates wasn't one of them. We saved the worst stuff for last in the hopes that we'd be able to escape the table without having to eat it at all (which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't).

Well, I am the tail end of 6, and I save the best for last. My reason? The same as everthing in life, I like to get through the bad stuff so I can enjoy the good. Even with a burger, I save the best bite for last. Who would want to walk around with a bad taste in their mouth?

I'm a youngest of four. I don't know if I go for the good stuff first actually, but my son (firstborn) definitively does. Then again, he has no competition, unless you count me and his mother.

I'm a firstborn, but I got in the habit of eating the best thing first for a much simpler reason. My parents told me no dessert until I finished my vegetables. So I'd eat whatever main course was being served first. When told that I had to eat my vegetables if I wanted dessert, I responded, "That's fine, I'm full." Then I could grab dessert a couple hours later when my parents were doing something else.

In reading Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste, I was struck by how eating in his day was the inverse of today. You go to a top restaurant nowadays, and you start out with ephemeral "amuse-bouches", working up gradually through salads, soups, fish, etc. up to the main (usually meat) course. The idea, I suppose, is to super-stimulate the palate while keeping you hungry until the grand finale.

In his day, they started with the big, filling courses, then extended the meal through increasingly tiny and delicate foods that presumably kept your interest even though you weren't actually hungry anymore.

In a formal Chinese banquet, you always eat the good stuff first, and never eat plain rice until the very end - at which point you're so stuffed it's almost ritualistic.

I'm a first born, and until recently a die-hard best-for-laster. I finally figured out the implications of diminishing returns, and now wait till the hunger's really coming on before eating, always going for the best stuff first. It is divine.

Dang, perusing the list of recent posts... and I thought it said "Exit Strategies"... perhaps another day. Meanwhile, I'll follow mph's summary advice and see what happens to my waistline.

My eating patterns are not especially consistent. While I'm generally a sampler, even disregarding food presented in courses in all but formal settings (or where they actually take things away at the end of a course), I'll eat in a linear fashion from time to time. Linear eating may be driven by convenience, e.g. the fries are on top of the hamburger in the bag, or it may be an attempt to sample each type of new food apart from others.

And whether sampling or eating one item at a time, I don't consistently save the best for last or eat it first. I'm just as likely to eat it in the middle. Oftentimes, I won't know what's best until after I'm done.

To put it simply I eat things. I've eaten everything that walks or crawls at one time or another. Order doesn't matter.

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