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Big Plate. Little Plate.

coffee supsApart from when you bought them have you ever thought about how big your dishes are? Or indeed your  glasses?  I have, mainly because of the work of Professor Brian Wansink at Cornell University, New York State.

His team delivers research around the notion of ‘mindless eating’ – where we don’t really make decisions about how much we eat, we just eat! And it’s not just because we’ve been taught to clean our plates.  Many other things come into play when looking at portions sizes. Those of us who have visited or had friends visit the U.S. can all tell tales about how big the restaurant portions of food are; something which has not happened in Europe.  But we may not have been aware that our dishes have increased in size such that the dishes and glasses we now buy for dinner are more than 30% bigger than they were 50 years ago.  You might not think this too much of an issue but to a dietitian this is endlessly fascinating. This small change can subtly make a difference to the number of calories we eat every day, and the quality of calories we eat, both of which will have an impact on our weight.

Consider these examples of outcomes from ‘mindless eating’ research:

We serve more from big cereal boxes than from small cereal boxes.

We serve more onto big plates or bowls than small plates or bowls.

We serve ourselves more food if provided with big serving spoons than smaller ones.

Further research has demonstrated that having this information at our fingertips is not enough even for the highly educated. We need to physically change our environment if we want this knowledge to work in our favour.

Use these tips for easier healthier living.

1. Serve your main course on a smaller plate

2. Use your big glasses for water.

3. Serve wine in your smallest glasses.

4. Serve puddings and desserts in small bowls or cups.

5. Serve healthier salads on larger plates.

Simple steps to a healthier lifestyle.  By improving your environment through smaller dishes, smaller wine glasses and bigger water glasses you won’t have to make decisions towards ‘choosing’ the smaller portion of food.  Those decisions will be automatically made for you as we generally stop serving when our plates our full (yes we all do this!). This concept buys in nicely to the blog on will power.  By eliminating yet another food based decision from our daily lives we keep our willpower reserves in good order for when have to make the more difficult food based choices. So big plate? Little plate?  Now you know…

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p.s. I tested this theory out at my book club dinner the other night.  I managed to serve way more water than normal using my big water glasses; I can’t say the same for the wine as didn’t have any small glasses.  Oops! Just off to the shops.

Felicity Lyons

Hi there! My name is Felicity. I am a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist with a proactive approach to healthy living. My job is to interpret the complexity of nutrition science and translate it into messages and guidance that you can understand. Healthy Living? It's easier than you think!