Learn how your plate can help with portion control

Tuesday 7th June, 2016


Your choice of plate can determine how much you eat, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge. Diners with smaller plates serve themselves less, and by extension, eat less.

The research combined previous studies and found that halving the size of a plate can lead to a decrease of up to 30% in food consumption. So if you simply switch to smaller plates, it may help curb your tendency to overeat.

“Using smaller plates at home can help reduce how much you serve yourself and how much you eat,” says Dr Natalina Zlatevska from Bond University in Australia

It’s not just size that counts; colour matters too.

Studies show that people tend to eat less if there is a higher contrast in colours between the food and the plate

For example, if you eat a light-coloured food – such as pasta – from a dark blue plate, you will probably eat less than you would off a white one.

Image: Wei-Ting Hsu

This is because the food portion looks much larger on a darker surface. On a lighter plate, it just blends in.

Studies began more than 100 years ago when Belgian philosopher Joseph Delboeuf formulated a concept that became known as the Delboeuf illusion.

According to his findings: “When a person looks at concentric circles, the perceived size of the inner circle changes when the circumference of the outer circle is altered. As the outer circle becomes larger, the perception is that the inner circle becomes smaller.

Putting his theory into our plate example, the colour contrast between plate and food creates an optical illusion: plate as the outer circle; food as the interior circle.

If their colours are similar, the portion (inner circle) looks smaller.

So you may change your plates to better accommodate your dining needs. If you plan to eat less, get a plate that contrasts with the colour of your meal. If you can’t change the colour of your dishes, smaller plates can help you stick to smaller portions.

This simple switch can help curb your appetite and help you lose that excess weight as well as brighten up your crockery.