Lose Weight With Smaller Plates: Science Weighs in on Dishsize and Calories

Lose Weight With Smaller Plates: Science Weighs in on Dishsize and Calories

The world of food has changed drastically over the years. From the days when humans were hunter gatherers to today’s fast paced lifestyle where our bodies are constantly bombarded with chemicals from processed foods, it is no wonder why we have become overweight. The problem with this modern life style is that we eat too much and not enough!

The average American eats nearly 2,000 calories per day. That is almost double what was recommended just a few decades ago.

In order to lose weight, one must cut back on calories or restrict them in some way. One solution would be to reduce portions, but this isn’t always possible due to busy schedules and time constraints. Another option would be to go low calorie diets such as the Atkins Diet which limits carbohydrates and fat intake while increasing protein consumption.

While these diets may work for some people, they aren’t suitable for everyone.

Another alternative is to use the “dish size” approach. This involves eating less than your body needs in order to maintain a healthy weight. Some advocates recommend going so far as to eat nothing at all!

However, this doesn’t necessarily lead to long term success since it requires extreme discipline and willpower. Furthermore, many studies show that cutting out certain foods actually increases hunger and cravings later on.

A much better way of eating less is to use smaller plates, bowls and cups. This has been shown to help people lose weight without having to resort to extremes.

Why does this work?

There are a number of reasons:

• The visual cue of a full plate leads us to eat everything on our plate. A full plate leads us to feel like we’ve had enough to eat regardless of whether or not we were actually full.

• Most of our meals consist mainly of starches and carbs such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. These foods increase in volume when consumed.

EXAMPLE: a bowl of pasta appears to decrease in size when cooked although the weight is the same. This leads us to believe we haven’t eaten much when in reality we’ve over eaten. Since most of our diets are carb heavy, using smaller dishes tricks our bodies into thinking that we aren’t getting enough food.

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There is also an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we serve ourselves food onto a smaller dish. We tend to aim for the corners and edges of the dish where there is more room, leaving the center area less full. On a larger plate, we tend to pile all of the food in the center for maximum space utilization.

So by using smaller dishes, we end up eating less overall.

What size plate should you use?

Studies have shown that 10-inch plates lead to 22% decreased consumption. 12-inch plates decrease consumption by 33%. This might not seem like a lot, but if you do the math, over a year this can make a big difference in your weight!

There are some important things to keep in mind when using smaller plates:

1) Make sure that your smaller plate has the same overall surface area as the larger one.

This way you aren’t tricking yourself into eating more due to the smaller radius of the plate leading you to pile more food on it.

2) Try to switch out all of your dishes for smaller ones.

By using a variety of sizes at each meal, you are likely to eat less at every sitting.

3) Use both smaller plates and smaller bowls.

Lose Weight With Smaller Plates: Science Weighs in on Dishsize and Calories - gym fit workout

Meals often involve more than one food group. You are less likely to clear your plate if the bowl is only filled with vegetables, for example. Use a smaller plate for the main food and a smaller bowl for the sides.

What about cup sizes?

Using smaller plates tricks our eyes into seeing more food. Using smaller cups does the opposite.

Have you ever gone to a fast food restaurant and gotten a child’s portion even though you are an adult?

You probably did this because the cup looked gigantic.

Most people get up from the table thinking they haven’t eaten very much, but after weighing their leftovers they see that they have in fact eaten quite a lot. Cutting your portions in half can be a big help in losing weight. Using smaller cups makes this job a little easier.

Keep in mind that liquids don’t need to be weighed as much as solids and liquids are not as satisfying. If you want to fill up on something like a soda, soup, or milk then go ahead, just don’t over do it. They can be handy for filling you up without adding too many calories.

In addition to using smaller plates and cups, there are other ways to trick yourself into thinking you’ve eaten more than you really have. For example, the “smell” and “look” of food can trigger the brain to expect a large volume of food. A lot of times people will heap their plates with food only to take some of it back because they don’t like the way it looks.

One easy solution is to use white rice instead of brown. The difference in looks can be dramatic. Another idea is to chop up your food into small bits.

This makes it seem like you have more on the plate. The goal is to trick your eyes so your brain doesn’t know the difference.

Enjoy your new, smaller meals. It’s amazing how fast the pounds will come off when you’re not overeating. I had to laugh at myself lately when I started weighing my food out on a scale.

It’s a little obsessive, but I’m actually losing weight now even though I’m eating more than ever!

Lose Weight With Smaller Plates: Science Weighs in on Dishsize and Calories - gym fit workout

Good luck and let me know how it’s going. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

Your friend,


The Right Mindset: Mental Tricks to Lose Weight


Good things come in small packages. The saying certainly applies to the weight loss industry. The less money you spend on diet pills and stupid fad diets the more likely you are to achieve your weight loss goals.

Sources & references used in this article:

Controlled testing of novel portion control plate produces smaller self-selected portion sizes compared to regular dinner plate by JW Hughes, CM Goldstein, C Logan, JL Mulvany… – BMC obesity, 2017 – Springer

Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein: Which Is Best For What? by A Larsen – breakingmuscle.com

Visual cues and food intake: Distortion power of plate and spoon size on overweight and obese university staff by M Vakili, S Jafarirad, P Abedi, R Amani… – … journal of preventive …, 2019 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Using plate mapping to examine portion size and plate composition for large and small divided plates by DE Sharp, J Sobal, B Wansink – Eating behaviors, 2014 – Elsevier

Capitella capitata Type I by NW Phillips, KR Tenore – MARINE ECOLOGY-PROGRESS SERIES, 1984 – int-res.com

Culture of a planktonic calanoid copepod through multiple generations by T These, P Pounds

The influence of portion size and timing of meals on weight balance and obesity by EJ Zillioux, DF Wilson – Science, 1966 – science.sciencemag.org

Portion distortion: typical portion sizes selected by young adults by C Berg, HB Forslund – Current obesity reports, 2015 – Springer