Smaller Plates Do Not Actually Make You Eat Less, Says New Study

Back to the diet drawing board.

By Ethan L. Johns
July 31, 2018

Image: iStock

Anyone who has ever celebrated Thanksgiving knows that a large plate is a dangerous thing. Yet, according to new research, a small plate might not be much better.

A new study published in the journal Appetites is contesting the commonly-held dieting wisdom that we eat less when using a small plate than when using a large plate.

The idea that small plates discourage overeating comes from something called the Delboeuf Illusion, which uses geometry to fool the eye. When a black circle is put inside of a small white circle, it appears larger than when the same black circle is placed in a large black circle.

To test the illusion’s dietary value, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev gave hungry participants (who hadn’t eaten for three hours) slices of pizza on trays of different sizes. They found that the hungry participants were less likely to misjudge the size of pizza, when compared to a control group. Both test groups, on the other hand, were fooled by a more traditional form of the illusion with black circles.

"Plate size doesn't matter as much as we think it does," said Dr. Tzvi Ganel, a co-author of the study, to ScienceDaily. "Even if you're hungry and haven't eaten, or are trying to cut back on portions, a serving looks similar whether it fills a smaller plate or is surrounded by empty space on a larger one."

So, sadly, it seems that tiny plates are no match for self control. After all, what would Thanksgiving be without seconds, thirds and fourths?

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns