Lurking somewhere underneath the one pound double cheeseburger with a bun bigger than a grown man’s hand and the heaping piles of crispy French fries is a plate. And, most likely, an oversized one with an extra-large dinner portion resting on topExpanding portion sizes in the US marketplace: implications for nutrition counseling. Young, L.R., Nestle, M. Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, New York University. February 2003; 103(2): 231-234.. And who really can stop just short of a clean-plate? Research shows that even when hunger pangs aren’t running rampant, having a large plate full of food will most likely lead to eating the entire thing — and that’s often more food than necessary.

Mini-Me — The Takeaway

Start small: eat off a smaller main entrée (or large salad) plate that’s about 8 to 10 inches, instead of piling food onto a 12-inch dish. This simple switch will lead to the same feelings of satisfaction, but with 22% fewer calories (and probably a few less food comas)! The reason? When the brain sees a large plate with white space surrounding the food, it unconsciously assumes the plate contains less food than a smaller-sized dish with no white space, when in fact, both plates contain the same amount. It’s basically like that awesome optical illusion: the eyes — not the stomach — count caloriesBottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Wansink, B., Painter, J.E., North, J. Applied Economics and Marketing. January 2005; 13(1): 93-100.. If the brain thinks the body is eating less, the more likely it’ll be to want a second serving thanks to its survival-mode instinct. So startting small, be it for ice cream or salad, ,may best those chances of replacing hunger with feeling full. But all the research isn’t so cut and dry: One small study of 20 women (10 overweight or obese, and 10 normal-weight) found that, when eating off of two different sized plates on two different days, there was no difference in the amount of food eaten — in all cases, the women simply ate until they became full. When it comes to fork size, though, some research shows that bigger may actually be better — at least when eating out in restaurants.One study found that in a restaurant setting, using a larger fork actually led to eating less than when subjects ate with a small fork. At the end of the day, a large-dish packed cabinet isn’t a death-by-dishware sentence. Some research shows a larger plate does not necessarily always result in more calories consumedUsing a smaller plate did not reduce energy intake at meals. Rolla, B.J., Roe, L.S., Halverson, K.H., et al. Department of Nutritional Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Appetite, 2007, Nov, 49(3)652-660.. So just be extra conscious of portion control.

The Tip

Choose a smaller plate for your food to cut calories and avoid overeating. Updated February, 2012