Monday, February 4, 2008

(Portion) Size Matters

Did you know?
  • Serving chips in a big bowl makes you eat more.
  • Serving dinner on big plates make you eat more.
  • Pouring a drink into a wide, short glass makes you drink more.
  • (And you never really notice the difference!)
Brian Wansink, head researcher at the Cornell Food Lab and author of “Mindless Eating,” has done extensive research on these and other eating dilemmas. He calls it “portion distortion.” Basically, because the serving bowl, plate, or cup is so large, it distorts your perception of how much you are actually consuming. Using many inventive study designs, such as serving soup in endlessly refilling bowls and serving week-old popcorn in big buckets, Dr. Wansink has shown that the size and display of the food influences how much is eaten.
Your Plate is Bigger than Your Stomach, NYT, 05.02.07
5 Tips from Mindless Eating. NYT 05.02.07
Reader suggestion for small plates from Ikea. NYT, 05.02.07
I first read this study last year and the first thing I did was to measure my dinner plates. I have old Syracuse china plates that I love because of the old-fashioned design and their sturdiness. My dinner plates have two sizes: 8” and 9” and they are plenty big. I was astounded. The only 12” plates I have, I use as serving platters. Whenever I think of buying new plates, I check the size. You'd be surprised; most new plates are of the 12" or larger variety.

We also happen to have a 1960s teak dining room table. It is long and skinny and, although it's pretty beat up at this point, we like it because it just fits the d├ęcor of our house. (This table can fit 8-10 people in a pinch, so it’s not exactly small.) But I also think the table's relatively small size dictates that we have smaller, skinner chairs and that the small plates we have fit just right. The whole system, maybe, contributes to us eating more moderate potions. Just like the "The Not So Big House" philosophy by Sarah Susanka, think about the "Not So Big Table" for your family dinner.

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