A Simple Trick To Reduce Calories

A Simple Trick To Reduce Calories

The Loving Hut Salad cc by SweetOnVeg

Swap out your dinner plate and salad plate.

Don’t supersize me!

I live in the United States. More specifically, I live in the Los Angeles area. Everything is super-sized here, from freeways to amusement parks to women’s mammary glands. And everyone wants more, more, more. Many of the restaurants here (think Cheesecake Factory) serve single portions that would feed an entire family in other countries. The sad thing is, most of us were also told to eat everything on our plate. In fact, in many countries it’s bad manners to not eat everything on your plate. And therein lies the conflict.

To resolve that conflict, the first thing most people try to do is to substitute foods: eat healthier replacements for the same comfort foods they’ve been eating for years. So, they don’t think about portions; they think about getting rid of foods they are sensitive to (gluten), or adding foods that are currently in fashion (raw milk). That’s great if your goal is to simply eat healthier food.

However, if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, the substitution approach just doesn’t work. “Even though you may be consuming healthy foods, if you eat too much, you still gain weight. At the end of the day, a calorie is a calorie. So, an easy way to cut your calories is to cut the size of your plate,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, a Pew Foundation Scholar.

(Plate) size does matter.

According to Dr. Peeke’s article Dishing yourself into smaller size, “In the 1960′s a dinner plate size was 9 inches and fit about 800 calories of food. By the late 1980′s, it was up to 10 inches adding another 200 calories for a total of 1000 calories. By 2000, the newly enlarged 11 inch dinner plate held 1,600 calories and today’s 12 inch packed plate can handle almost 1,900 calories. We’ve doubled the number of calories you can fit on that plate.”

Even more interesting, it turns out that our brains link how full our meal plate is to how full we feel when we’re done eating. Professors Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum at Cornell University conducted research on food portions , taking the same amount of food and putting it on larger and smaller plates. What they found was that, on larger plates the amount of food seemed smaller to the test subjects, while the same amount of food on a smaller plate seemed larger to the test subjects. In other words, the test subjects misjudged the amount of food being served based on how it fit on the plate.

In scientific circles, this phenomenon is called the “Delboeuf illusion”, where people misjudge the size of identical circles when they are surrounded by larger circles of varying sizes. It turns out that the more “white space” that appears around the circle, the smaller the circle appears. Wansink and van Ittersum found that the Delbouef illusion occurs with the plates and bowls we use at every meal. And that information creates a strategy for trimming the portion size – and calories – of each meal: trick yourself.

How to trick yourself into eating less and enjoying it more.

So, now that you know that meal satisfaction is all about how you perceive the size of the meal, the solution is simple: use smaller plates and bowls; if you use salad plates and dinner plates, just swap them out, and put your salad on the bigger plate. Then reduce portion sizes so that the plates and bowls look full by filling them up with lots of vegetables, not carbohydrates or heavy dressings. Simple, huh? Remember, portion size is all in your mind!


Fill your dinner plate with dark leafy greens and other salad ingredients of your choice (carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers, string beans, broccoli) and then put your healthy whole grain, low fat protein, and cooked steamed vegetables on your smaller salad plate. Or simply use your salad plate for your entire dinner!

Recommended Frequency:

  • At least 3 times a week.

Expected Benefits:

  • Reduce your calorie intake
  • Lose weight
  • Create better portion control
  • Change your perception of being full

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