Small Plates May Not Equal Diet Success

Calorie consumption not altered with smaller plate size

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Experts have long suggested dieters might receive an added boost in cutting calories simply by eating meals on smaller plates. New research suggests that theory may be a myth.

The study's findings indicate that dinner plate size does not help curb the amount of food eaten or reduce portion sizes.

"Consume fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight."

Meena Shah, a senior researcher and professor of kinesiology at Texas Christian University, noted that smaller plates are often recommended as a way to control food intake, but that the strategy simply does not work. Her recent study found that a person's energy intake and weight were not impacted by dinner plate size.

“It is possible that plate size does not have an impact on energy intake because people eat until they are full regardless of what utensils they are using,” Shah noted.

Shah said that the overweight women reported lower levels of hunger and anticipated consumption before meals and felt less full after eating as compared to normal weight women even though both groups ate the same amount of food. This instead may suggest those who are overweight have less ability to sense hunger and fullness, she said.

During the study investigators enrolled 10 normal weight women and 10 women who were overweight or obese, and followed them at lunch on two different days. The women were randomly assigned to use either a  small (21.6 centimeter) or large (27.4 centimeter) plate.

A meal comprised of spaghetti and tomato sauce was served in an individual serving bowl, and participants were instructed to self-serve onto their assigned plate. They ate the meal alone, and were told to eat until they were full. During the second lunch participants again ate a meal but used the alternate size plate.

Researchers found that plate size did not affect consumption or how much participants expected to eat, hunger, fullness, meal satisfaction or how much the women enjoyed the taste and flavor of the meals in either normal size or overweight women.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Review Date: 
January 23, 2012
Last Updated:
January 24, 2012