Have you ever ordered a one-serving meal at a restaurant, only to be served a large, heaping plate of food? If you’re trying to cut calories, then you’re in trouble. According to a study from the University of Cambridge in the UK, we eat much more than we need to when served with a large plate heaping with food, no matter how full we are.
Scientists say large plates trick our brains into thinking that we’re eating less than we actually are, while smaller plates trick us into thinking we’re eating more. The same theory applies to other forms of cutlery—the researchers say using salad forks instead of regular ones make you eat less, too.
It’s a visual game of portions and how our brains associate them with satiety. Studies conducted at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in the US found that people served themselves according to the plate size they have: the same amount of pasta will look like a much bigger serving on a smaller plate compared to a large one. People tend to over-serve on larger plates, which then leads to larger food intake. In fact, a study by the University of Cambridge found that people who were offered larger portions (whether as food or drinks) consistently ate more than when offered smaller portions. According to the researchers, eating off a larger plate can make you eat as much as 527 more calories daily—that’s about a pound a week!
Next time you’re at a restaurant or buffet, ditch the 12-inch dinner plate and go for the salad plate instead. When eating at home or cooking, measure portions carefully instead of eyeballing it on your plate. Being careful with your portions and strategic with your plates and cutlery could mean losing a pound a week without really trying!