Use Smaller Plates and Lose Weight!

Patient Expert

small plate of food** Plate Size Effects Amount of Food Eaten**

Big, bigger, to biggest has been the evolution of American waistlines. It is no secret that we have chubbed-up, plumped-out, and become so round in the hip that we sometimes resemble a nation of snowmen come to life. The pace of our super-size-me evolution has been matched by an increase in the size of our dinnerware. To be more concise, plates have gotten bigger through the years. Our need for consumption can longer be handled by the compact dishes of yesteryear. We now require something that can accommodate the new volume of maximum load.

The Progression of the Bigger American Plate

If you have given little thought to the progression of American plate size you are definitely part of a minority. Most people have not given this particular subject matter any thought at all. Be that as it may, the extension of the standard dinner plate coincides with the expansion of the American waist.

The average American dinner plate has increased in size by 25% since the early 1900's. The plates of the 1960s were about 9 inches in diameter, the plates of the 1980s about 10 inches, and by 2000 had grown to eleven inches. Drinking glasses have also experienced an upsurge across time.

If this seems inconsequential to you then you should know that most
Americans have a tendency to use all available space on their plates. Not only that, but we also have a tendency to eat all of what we have piled into that space.

In addition, some studies have found a correlation between the color of a dinner plate and how much people will eat.

How Much Does Plate Size Matter?

It appears that plate size matters quite a bit when determining how much we eat.  Grad students, faculty and staff from the nutrition department at Cornell University were invited to an ice cream social held by researchers at the college. Participants were randomly distributed either large or small bowls as well as large or small spoons. All participants helped themselves to ice cream.

The end results were participants who used a larger bowl ate 30% more ice cream than those who had smaller bowls, participants who used larger spoons ate 15% more ice cream even if they had selected a smaller bowl, and participants who received both a large bowl and large spoon ate 57% more ice cream than their peers.

The results of a similar test that was administered to children were recently published inn the journal Pediatrics.

Forty-two first graders in Philadelphia were allowed to serve themselves from a buffet over an eight-day period. The children received adult-sized plates on four of those days and child-sized plates on the other four. The plates were weighed before and after lunch.

The results were very much the same as the Cornell ice cream social. Children who were found to have served themselves more calories were also found to have done so on the days when they received the adult-sized plate.

The bottom line: The findings from these studies draw the same common sense conclusion: whereas plate size seems to influence eating behaviors, the better choice would be to select a smaller plate at meal time.

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