Watching that waistline? Eating off a red plate could help you eat less
Watching that waistline? Eating off a red plate could help you eat less

We all know that how food looks is as important as how it tastes. That is why when food looks appetising and smells nice, we tend to eat more of it. But did you know that the power to increase (or suppress) appetite extends to our choice of dinnerware, table cloths, cutlery, and even dining room décor?

Need help to beat that expanding waistline? Read on to find out how you can eat less just by changing your choice of décor and dinnerware.

The Size of Things to Come

Size matters, at least for dinnerware. Large bowls and plates encourage over-serving and, by extension, over-eating. In a 2012 paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research which covered five studies and nearly 200 participants, Brian Wansink, a specialist in consumer behavior; and Koert van Ittersum, a marketing expert, both from Cornell University, noted that when people were asked to fill a certain amount of soup into bowls of different sizes, they tended to over-estimate with larger bowls and spoon more into them.

Why? Their behavior is the result of an optical illusion of relative size perception proposed by 19 th -century Belgian philosopher, Franz Delboeuf. He explained that when a circle is surrounded by an outer circle that is much larger than itself, the inner circle is perceived to be smaller than it really is. When the same circle is surrounded by a circle only a little larger than itself, that inner circle is seen to be larger than it really is. Soup in a bowl (or any food on a plate) basically works on this same inner-outer circle principle Put food in a too-large plate; the surrounding empty space on the plate will make the amount of food look small, leading to over-serving and over-eating. Put that same amount of food in a smaller plate and the food fills up all the space, making the amount look like a lot, thereby preventing over-eating.

How harmful could this be? Very. This kind of over-serving could lead to as much as 30% more food served (and eaten). If you consider the fact that just by eating 50 calories more a day (half an apple) you could end up gaining over 2 kg a year, those big bowls and big plates could add up to big weight gains.

In the same way, the size of your cutlery can also affect how much or little you consume. In a study carried out covertly at an Italian restaurant, researchers found that people ate less when using large forks. The diners who ate the most were those given small forks but large portions. The reason, they theorised, was that larger utensils make you think you are eating more so you end out feeling full faster and, therefore, eating less overall.

Colour Correction for Weight Management

Red plates cause you to eat less. In a study published in the journal, Appetite, researchers gave 240 participants snacks of popcorn and chocolate chips on either red, white, or blue plates. Those who munched off red plates ate less compared to those who dined off white or blue ones. The study suggested that the colour red is often associated with danger or stopping so, subconsciously, the people with red plates ate less.

In another study, participants spent time in a blue room, a red one, and a yellow one. When in the blue room, participants ate a third less than in each of the other two rooms. As Nature does not have that many blue foods, the colour blue is not naturally associated with food. Hence, the brain tends to be more cautious when it sees blue associated with food since it is counter-intuitive.

Contrast is Key

Along with colour, contrast also helps. According to Wansink and van Ittersum’s 2012 Cornell University study, high colour contrast between the food and the plate makes you eat less. Participants in their study who served themselves pasta Alfredo on white plates (white on white) heaped up to 22% more pasta than those who were given red plates (white contrasting with red). This is because colour contrast helps to mitigate the Delboeuf illusion so your brain does not have to work so hard to distinguish the food from the plate, and you are less likely to know when to stop eating.

In addition, Wansink and van Ittersum found that the colour of the table cloth and placemat also has an effect on the amount of food eaten. The more the table cloth and placemat match the dinnerware, the less you eat. The hypothesis is this: low colour contrast between table cloth, placemat, and dinnerware eliminates the Delboeuf illusion effect by making the dinnerware (the outer circle) less noticeable and making the food on your plate seem like a lot.

Now that you have a different strategy to help beat the battle of the bulge, it is also a great excuse to do a little shopping. Change the colour of your dinnerware and accessories and add on different sizes to your dinnerware and cutlery collection. You might well be on your way to changing your eating habit and dress size, too.

Where to shop:

Crate and Barrel
Proof Living