Does plate size and color have an effect on how much you eat? Research from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University shows that eating off of a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-inch plate resulted in 22 percent fewer calories served. This optical illusion between plate size is known as the Delboeuf illusion, named after the Belgian scientist who discovered it in 1865. According to Delboeuf, when staring at concentric circles, the perceived size of the inner circle changes as the circumference of the outer circle is altered.


In addition, the study indicates color contrast between plate and food has an effect on serving size. The researchers provided a pasta buffet for study participants. Half of them were directed to the tomato sauce buffet, while the other half enjoyed Alfredo sauce. They were randomly handed a red or white plate for their meal, but each person served themselves. Each plate was weighed using hidden scales. Results show that participants who had plates that matched the food color served themselves 30% more pasta than those who had high contrast in color between their plate and food.


The next time you are setting your dinner table or eating out, keep these findings in mind so you won’t overeat. Of course, if you or your family needs to eat more greens, try a green plate for the opposite effect.


Source: Van Ittersum K, Wansink B. Plate size and color suggestibility: the Delboeuf Illusion’s bias on serving and eating behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), 215-228.

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