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Smaller Plates Don’t Always Lead to Smaller Portions

Smaller Plates Don’t Always Lead to Smaller Portions

One of the tricks of dieting is to use smaller plates so you’ll automatically eat less. But a new study from the University of Connecticut finds that this visual cue doesn’t work for everyone, especially overweight girls.

“It has been assumed that overweight or obese consumers are more likely than others to underestimate the size of a food serving and accordingly overeat — particularly when the food is presented on a large dinner plate or in a large container,” said Lance Bauer, a psychiatry professor. “For this reason and others, it is frequently recommended that these consumers use smaller plates to defeat the illusion.”

But when Bauer and University of Connecticut Health Alcohol Research Center colleagues Victor Hesselbrock and Dr. Jonathan Covault quizzed 162 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 about their perceptions of a portion size relative to different plate sizes, they found a surprising result.

“The study found that, on average, overweight or obese adolescent girls were less attentive than normal weight girls to visual cues of different types,” Bauer said. “This finding suggests that changing the size of their dinnerware may be less effective than we thought. It also suggests that presenting them with detailed charts summarizing diet rules or calorie counts might also be less effective than we would like.”

“The study’s results imply that diet education for overweight or obese adolescents should be clear, simple, repeated, and interesting,” Bauer continued. “The next step might involve incorporating information about an overweight or obese child’s cognitive abilities in his or her weight loss treatment. In diet education, one size might not fit all.”

The study’s findings were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Savannah, Georgia.

Source: University of Connecticut

Smaller Plates Don’t Always Lead to Smaller Portions

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Smaller Plates Don’t Always Lead to Smaller Portions. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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