There have been innumerable studies of the foods we eat and the effects they have on our bodies, but until recently no one seemed too concerned with how the things we use to eat that food affect us. A growing body of research indicates that the forks, plates and other utensils we use to consume our meals can have a powerful impact on how much we consume and how satisfying we perceive it to be.
The shapes, sizes and colors of those items can play techniques on our brains that influence our overall consumption. Here are five examples:
If you’re looking for an easy way to consume less food, you can start by using smaller plates and bowls.
A 2006 study found that people who were given large bowls ended up serving themselves and consuming 16% more cereal than those that were given small bowls. After they ate, members of both organizations had been asked to estimate how much cereal they had consumed. Members of the large bowl group estimated they ate 7% less than what members of the small bowl group estimated. Amazingly, the large bowl group ate even more but believed they ate less.
The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab (CUFBL) wrote a statement on the study that said its findings confirm that “not only could huge dinnerware cause us to serve and eat more; it can do so without us noticing and trick us into believing we have eaten less.”
A 2013 study backed up this theory when it found that diners at a Chinese buffet who used large plates ate 45% more food on average than those who used smaller sized plates.
One reason behind this phenomenon is an optical illusion known as the Delboeuf illusion. If you take two dots of identical size and shape and surround a single with a large circle and the additional with a small circle, the dot surrounded by the tiny circle will actually appear to be bigger and the dot encircled by the huge circle.
Since meals served on smaller dinnerware appear larger, they can trick your brain into believing you are consuming more food than you actually are. And since foods served on large plates can appear smaller, they are able to trick the human brain into believing you are consuming less food than you truly are.
Use small plates and bowls for calorie-dense foods and larger plates and bowls for foods you need to eat even more of. Cornell's researchers advise that “healthy foods such as fresh vegetables should be served on bigger plates to encourage consumption, while less-healthy foods ought to be served from smaller sized plates to trick our sweet tooth into feeling satisfied with less.”
Whereas huge plates and bowls have been found to promote overeating, the opposite is true of forks.
A 2011 research in the Journal of Consumer Research looked at how fork size can affect eating habits. The analysis was conducted in an Italian restaurant, and participants had been seated at tables with either large forks or little forks. The huge forks held 20% more food than an average-sized restaurant fork while the small forks held 20% less.
To analyze just how much meals each participant ate, their plates were weighed before and after the meals. By the end of the analysis, the experts found participants who ate with larger forks left significantly more food on their plates than those that ate with smaller forks, leaving an average of 7.91 ounces of food compared to 4.43 ounces. Those who ate with bigger forks became satisfied quicker and ate significantly less than those who ate with smaller sized forks.
The study’s authors concluded that “when people have a well-defined hunger goal to satisfy and put forth effort to reach the goal, they consume more from a little fork instead of from a big fork. The bite size becomes the medium that helps them fulfill their goal and also influences quantity consumed. The small fork gives a feeling that they are not making much progress in satiating their food cravings, which results in more consumption in comparison to when they have a huge fork.” As with plate sizes, you can use this to your advantage by using a big fork when you’re trying to limit your overall usage of a food and a small fork when you’re looking to load up on something nutritious.
We’ve already established that eating from a sizable plate can lead to overeating. But it's not merely the size of the plate that matters it's the color, too.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Customer Research viewed how plate color make a difference the amount of food people place on their plates when self-serving. In a buffet setting, participants were randomly designated either a white plate or a reddish colored plate. The food options consisted of two types of pasta-one with Alfredo sauce and one with tomato sauce. As you know, Alfredo sauce is white and tomato sauce is usually reddish colored. The study’s authors found the individuals who had low contrast between the food they picked and the plates they used served themselves considerably more food.
The CUFBL outlined the findings of the study in a declaration on their website: “Participants who experienced low contrast between their meals and the plates they served themselves on, for example pasta with Alfredo sauce on a white plate or pasta with tomato sauce on a crimson plate, served themselves 22 percent-or 32 grams-even more pasta than participants with high comparison between their food and the plate they offered themselves on.”
The amount of food you provide yourself has a gigantic impact about how much you actually eat. A 2015 study discovered that within an average self-serve meal, 92 percent of all self-serve food is subsequently eaten. That means that if you serve yourself more food, the odds are you’ll eat more of it. “Adults regularly consume the vast majority of what they serve themselves,” the research' authors wrote.
Like plate sizes, you may use this phenomenon in your favor by changing your plate color based on the situation. The CUFBL advises that if your goal is to eat less of a given food, select a plate that has a high contrast with that item. If you’re attempting to eat more of something, decide on a plate that matches the color of the food. Serving yourself green beans on a green plate, for instance, could lead you to up your portion and eventually consume more of them.
Our hands are the original eating utensils. Although we like to think we’ve progressed since our caveman days, we still make use of our hands to grub on many products, among them chips, pretzels, trail mix, candy, burritos, bagels and sandwiches. And exactly like other food utensils, just how we use your hands can affect how much we eat.
A 2011 study released in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that using your non-dominant hand to consume a snack food can assist you control your intake and cut down your total caloric intake. For the study, the researchers gathered individuals in a movie theater and provided them with popcorn. They could eat as much or as little as they wanted. Half of the group was told to eat the popcorn as they normally would while the other half was told to consume the snacks with their nondominant hand. The experts found those that ate with their non-dominant hands consumed about 30 percent less than those who ate with their dominant hands. Eating with your nondominant hand helps prevent mindless feeding on, which is the practice of eating food without paying attention to just how much you are consuming. "If people disrupt the physical sequence of action that is in automatic eating, that’s one way to gain some control,” said study author David Neal.
Red and blue have long been universal signals for popular and cold. Interestingly enough, it seems our brains associate these colors and temperatures so closely that they can change how we taste beverages.
A 2003 study discovered that a cool beverage served in a blue glass was rated significantly more thirst-quenching than the same drink offered in a green, red or yellow glass. Nearly 50 percent of participants found drinking from the blue glass to be the most thirst-quenching experience. Researchers indicated that the association between your color blue and the sensory quality of coldness is definitely what likely made the beverage seem even more refreshing to participants when it was served in blue cups, even though the liquid was the same heat in each cup.
A 2012 study found that coffee offered in a red cup was rated considerably warmer compared to the same temperature coffee served in a yellow, green or blue cup. Nearly 40 percent of participants figured the coffee in the red cup was the hottest beverage of the four, despite the fact that the temperature was the same in each container.
It’s hard to say if this phenomenon can be used as a nutritional strategy, but it can be utilized to enhance a beverage drinking experience. If you’re seeking to quench your thirst, go for a blue-colored cup, glass or mug. If you’re looking to cozy up with a hot beverage, choose a red-colored cup, glass or mug.
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