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When we use bigger plates we almost inevitably eat more. When the color of the food contrasts with the color of the plate we almost always eat less.
“The bigger your dinnerware, the bigger your portion. If you use larger plates, you could end up serving 9 percent to 31 percent more than you typically would,” write authors Koert van Ittersum (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Brian Wansink (Cornell University). The average size of dinner plates has increased by almost 23 percent from since 1900, the authors point out, and eating only 50 more calories a day could result in a five-pound weight gain each year.
Follow-up experiments showed that the “bowl bias” is nearly impossible to eliminate with education, awareness, or practice. During two summer camps, larger bowls led people to overserve up to 31 percent more than normal.
One of the few ways to reduce bowl bias is through color––such as changing the color of a tablecloth or a plate. In a field study, participants were asked to serve white-sauce or red-sauce pasta on either a large white or a large red plate. On average, changing the color of the plate so it was high contrast reduced how much people served by 21 percent, and changing the color of the tablecloth reduced how much people served by 10 percent.
I’ve posted more about Wansink’s fascinating food behavior research here.
His book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think is excellent.
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