The Right Size and Color of Plates Can Help You Eat Less

How to eat less? According to researchers, selecting the correct size as well as color of plates and bowls can help you to eat less.[1]

The larger the dinnerware, the greater the portion. If you are using bigger plates, you can land up serving 9% to31 % more than you normally would. Typical dinner plate sizes have increased by more or less 23% since 1900, and having only 50 extra calories each day may result in 5 pounds of weight gain annually.

In one laboratory test, the researchers requested 225 people to pour a specified quantity of tomato soup into 1 of 7 different sized dishes: 3 smaller, 3 larger, and 1 control dish. In line with the expectations of the researchers, participants dished up less than the target portion size of soup in to the smaller dishes, and they dished up more in to the larger dishes.

Follow up tests indicated that the “bowl bias” is virtually impossible to get rid of with awareness, education or practice. Bigger dishes led people to over serve up to 31% more than usual.

One of the few methods to reduce bowl bias is by means of color, for example changing the color of the tablecloth or perhaps a plate. In a field study, individuals were requested to serve red-sauce or white-sauce pasta on either a large red or large white plate. On average, adjusting the plate color so that it was high contrast decreased the amount people dished up by 21%, and switching the color of the tablecloth decreased the amount people dished up by 10%.

The research supports the not well known Delboeuf illusion, in which people believe the size of a circle is a lot smaller when enclosed by a large circle rather than a small one. Similarly, when dishing up onto a small plate, the meal looks relatively larger than it really is, leading people to under serve and eat less.

A simple solution could be to merely get rid of large dinnerware, change our larger plates and bowls for smaller ones or contrast ones.

 Portion Sizes Drive Consumption Infographic

Image Source: Mike Bloomberg


  1. DOI: 10.1086/662615

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