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How Your Plate Affects Portion Size


What if you could change your eating habits by simply changing the plate you use?

Recent studies have shown that our food choices can indeed be influenced by the size and color of our plates, not to mention environmental factors like noise and lighting. Take these factors into account the next time you prepare a meal.

The smaller the plate, the smaller the portion.

According to a study from Cornell University, the bigger your plate, the more likely you are to take bigger portions. It makes sense, right? Large plates and bowls tend to make servings looks smaller, so we feel the need to compensate by taking a larger portion. To eat less but still feel satisfied, use a small plate or bowl. On the other hand, if you’re trying to load up on healthy vegetables like spinach, broccoli or cauliflower, use a larger plate to trick yourself into eating more.

Color and contrast can cue your appetite.

Even your plate color can affect how much you eat. In another study from Cornell, people who used plates with colors that highly contrasted the color of their food (for example, red pasta on a white plate) served themselves 22% more. Those whose plates were low contrast (red pasta on a red plate) tended to take less. We call it “camouflage for calories.”

Adding to that, one study shows that there may be a link between using red plates and eating less.

Loud noises, fast music and bright lighting can lead to overeating.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to walk faster when a high-tempo song is playing? The same can be true for eating. Research shows that listening to fast music can make you eat faster, leading to overeating. In addition, loud environments and bright lighting may make you eat more. It’s no wonder fast food restaurants tend to be bright and noisy!

It’s okay to go first.

In addition to choosing your plate and environment to optimize healthy eating, you can also arrange your kitchen to support healthy choices. Place healthy foods in the front of your refrigerator and cupboards so you see them first. If you’re eating at a buffet, load your plate with healthy veggies first. And know that if you’re dining out with friends, their menu choices can influence yours. Ask if you can place your order first so you won’t be swayed by their decisions.

Learn more about portion sizes and how to measure your meals. Download our Handy Portion Size Guide for free. 

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