Stephanie and I were talking the other day about how rewarding it is to see changes in our clients as they exhibit an increased awareness of not only WHAT and HOW they are eating, but also how MUCH. 

For all the benefits healthy eating brings, we still find ourselves driving home the importance of managing portion sizes (yes it is possible to overeat even a kale salad)!

Let’s have some fun with this by taking a look at the image. When you look at the two diagrams, which middle dot do you think is bigger?

The answer is: it’s an optical illusion! The middle dots are exactly the same size. This short test is used to demonstrate that in our everyday lives, we use background objects as a scale for estimating size.

What does this have to do with today’s food trends? Big plates + big spoons = big portions.

As you may already know, portion sizes were very different years ago. “Super-size” servings are actually a relatively recent phenomenon. So not only have portions grown, so have our dishes (just compare your grandmas dishes to your own dinner plate). Problem is, setting the table with large plates and serving bowls – or going to restaurants with super-sized plates and portions — sets the stage for overeating.

Inevitably, as the size of our plates increases, so does the amount of food we put on them. And studies show that larger plates can and DO cause us to serve ourselves more because the plates actually make the food portion look smaller.

Research also shows that if you take a medium-sized hamburger and serve it to people on a saucer, they estimate that it has more calories than if you serve it to them on a normal-size plate. The same thing is true with desserts. When presented on a large plate, people underestimate the calories in a piece of pie or cake compared to when it is presented on a smaller plate.

What’s the action step from all this research?

Try using smaller plates, and smaller spoons, forks, and glasses and see how your portion perception changes.

I actually started putting this into practice about a year ago. At first, Marc and the boys made fun of my smaller plate but I forged ahead anyway (my health comes first)! Now everyone is used to it and it has become a non issue. It gives me a chance to stop once my plate is empty and really consider if my body needs more food. More often than not, I am usually satisfied with what fits on the plate (which is loaded with filling veggies as well).When you are more intentional about the size of your plates and portions, you are taking an important step toward being in control of your eating – instead of letting your eating be in control of you.

For some more great tips on how to keep portions under control, check out THIS article about portion distortion and what happened one fine evening at a local restaurant when I went out to eat with my family. 

Let us know – do you struggle with portions and portion control? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

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