Want to eat less? Use smaller plates and buy smaller packages

September 28, 2015 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Want to eat less? Use smaller plates and buy smaller packages


Adults consume more food when it comes in bigger packages or is served on larger plates, a review of past research has found.

The study team analyzed 58 studies with a combined 6,600 participants that examined how the size of things like cereal bowls and snack bags influences the number of calories people take in.

Combined, these brief experiments suggest that smaller containers, dishes and cutlery might help adults consume up to 16 percent fewer calories in the U.K. and 29 percent less in the U.S.

The lead researcher from the University of Cambridge in the U.K. stated the findings provide the most conclusive evidence to date that people consistently consume more food and drink when offered larger-sized portions, packages, or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions.

The results highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption and suggest that actions to limit exposure to larger serving sizes may be effective tools for getting people eat less.

Globally, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint disorders and certain cancers.

The effect of smaller sizes for dishes and packages didn’t vary by gender and was similar for normal-weight, overweight and obese people, the researchers found. Only children appeared unaffected by size when deciding how much food or drink to consume.

Most of the studies reviewed didn’t follow people for long periods and researchers lacked data to assess whether sustained changes in container and plate sizes over time might contribute to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.

Still, when it comes to plate size, reducing the diameter by even an inch or two can make a difference in calorie consumption.

Ideally, adults should use 9-inch or 10-inch plates, and children should have 7.5-inch plates. But this isn’t an easy message to convey in a culture with a “supersize” mentality, the researchers said.

While plate size may matter, downsizing dishes alone may not be enough to help people lose weight, say experts. “Recommending smaller plates is just one piece of a very large puzzle.”

Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, online September 14, 2015.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.