small plates

The Truth About Small Plates

This portion-control strategy works—sometimes.

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In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.


THE SCIENCE
Maybe you’ve heard of this portion-control strategy: When you eat off a small plate, it tricks your brain into thinking there’s more food on it compared to when you eat the same amount off of a bigger dish. 

But a new study published in the journal Appetite shows this doesn’t work when you’re hungry. Researchers found that people who hadn’t eaten in three hours were better able to gauge how big a slice of pizza was regardless of plate size. Those who had eaten recently, on the other hand, thought the slice was bigger when served on a small plate.
EXPERT INSIGHT
When you’re due for your next meal, your motivational and physiological states of mind change the way you perceive food, says study author Tzvi Ganel, professor of psychology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel. In other words, hungry brains see food portions more realistically. But if you're reaching for a post-meal treat, using a smaller dish can help you feel more satisfied. 
THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re snacking after lunch or dinner, use a smaller plate or bowl to trick your brain into thinking you're eating a bigger portion.

Photo: Sarah Anne Ward/The Licensing Project