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60-Second Health

Dish Color Affects Serving Size

When dishes were the same color as the food served, people took bigger portions. Katherine Harmon reports

One reason Americans have such a huge weight problem? Our dishware. When faced with a bigger plate, people are inclined to heap on—and consume—more food. And plate sizes, like waistlines, have expanded.  

But what about color? If plate area can change serving size, could we also trick ourselves into eating less by changing the color of those dishes?

Cornell eating behavior expert Brian Wansink enlisted 60 unsuspecting adults to find out. Half of those attending a buffet lunch were assigned to a line with only white Alfredo sauce-coated pasta and the other half were ushered to the line with only red marinara-sauce pasta. Folks in each line were randomly given a red or white plate.

Those with plates that matched the color of their food helped themselves to much more than those who had plates of another color. The findings are in the Journal of Consumer Research. [Koert van Ittersum and Brian Wansink, "Plate Size and Color Suggestibility: The Delboeuf Illusion's Bias on Serving and Eating Behavior"]

So next time you're buying dishes, remember that it's not just size that matters.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]   

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