Inspired living

Can the size of your plate have an effect on how much you eat?

Empty plate with silverware on wooden table

Credit: 123RF

Over the years there have been conflicting findings on how plate size impacts how much you eat. Some studies say that if you use a smaller plate you will eat less while others say that plate size has no impact. To make sense of this some researchers decided to review the existing literature and see if there were any consistencies and they did find some interesting connections between plate size and food consumption.

People given a smaller plate will give themselves smaller serves and therefore eat less.

The research involved analysis of 56 previous studies that had looked at the effect of plate size on food consumption. The studies overall examined a variety of food types (snacks, popcorn, ice-cream, breakfast cereal, rice, vegetables, fruit), plate types (bowl vs plate, platter vs plate), portion sizes (amount of food served or self-served), and settings (unaware consumers in natural buffet settings vs people invited to a laboratory for an experiment).

A compilation of all the data found that plate size does impact how much you eat but only under certain circumstances.

The data showed that halving the plate size reduces amount of food consumed on average by about 30 per cent (interestingly, to reduce a plate area by half you reduce the diameter by 30 per cent). However, this only held true when people are serving themselves. People given a smaller plate will give themselves smaller serves and therefore eat less. Additionally, the smaller plates work best if people are unaware that they are being watched or monitored. This explains why so many laboratory studies have found that plate size does not affect food consumption.

All in all, if you have a relative who is eating too much you might try buying smaller plates and serving lunch and dinner as a buffet; just don’t let them know you are watching how much they eat.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.