Eating Healthy: the Basics

1. What is a healthy breakfast?
2. What is a healthy lunch?
3. What is a healthy dinner?
4. How much should I weigh?
5. How many calories should I be eating?
6. What is the best way to lose weight?
7. How can I keep my weight loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight loss?
9. How to set weight loss goals and make them happen
10. How to keep a food diary, and why it is essential to successful weight loss
11. Are all fats bad for you?
12. Are saturated fats bad for you?
13. Are unsaturated fats good for you?
14. Are carbohydrates bad for you?
15. Is fiber good for you?
16. How to read nutrition/food labels
17. How to plan your weekly menus
18. Why should I eat less salt?
19. What do the sodium (salt) numbers mean on food labels?
20. What is The Mediterranean Diet?
21. Why eating vegetables is good for you
22. Why eating fruit and nuts is good for you
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
26. Which fats and oils are good for you?
27. Are dairy products good for you?
28. Which meats should I not eat?
29. Is drinking alcohol good for you?
30. Is it important to measure your ingredients?
31. Are snacks good for you?
32. How to choose the right portion size
33. Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning out your pantry
35. Which oils and fats should I keep in my pantry?
35. Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?
36. Which carbohydrates are good for you?
37. What is the best chicken or turkey for you?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
39. Which nuts and seeds should I eat?
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
41. Is eating dessert good or bad for you?
42. Is drinking soda bad for you?
43. Is drinking coffee bad for you?
44. How can healthy food taste good? Part 1
45. How can healthy food taste good? Part 2
46. How to eat healthy while eating out
47. Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?
48. How to eat healthy while traveling


Eating Healthy: the Basics

Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?

a standard place setting with fork, knife, spoon, and dinner plate on a rustic placemat

Portion control is clearly critical to losing weight and eating healthy. There’s study after study to show how well this can work for you. The natural extension of this might be not just the portion size of your food, but also the size of your plate. A lot of research has gone into this very question: does it make a difference whether you use a small or a large plate in how much you actually eat? The answer is yes, for adults, but not so much for kids.

Many studies of kids have shown mixed results on whether plate size is a factor when children serve themselves. For instance, in one study it didn’t matter how big the plate was or if they served themselves by filling plates from a buffet, they pretty much ate the same amount of food.

For adults it makes a difference. Possibly our perceptions become more accurate as we get older. Brain Wansink, who creates some of the finest research on our perceptions of food, studied adult nutritionists at a staged ice cream social. The participants were randomly given a large bowl or a small bowl for to use for their ice cream. They were then given a large or a small serving spoon to serve themselves. Afterwards they were questioned about how much ice cream they felt they had served themselves and how much they had eaten.

Those given a larger bowl served themselves about 1/3 more ice cream. When they used the larger serving spoon, they took about 15% more ice cream. By using both a larger bowl and a larger spoon folks served themselves a whopping 45% more than those using the combination of a smaller bowl and smaller serving spoon. Interestingly, only 3 of those at the party didn’t finish their ice cream (and these were nutritionists who should presumably know better).

Having a guide to portion size on the correct sized plate has been shown to help as well. "The Diet Plate" is a right sized dinner plate with outlines of the appropriate portion sizes printed directly on the plate. Researchers used a similar cereal bowl with rings painted on the inside to show serving sizes for cereal.

In a study of obese diabetics the scientists randomized half to use The Diet Plate and bowls. The rest simply followed their usual routine and recommendations from their doctors and dietitians. Over six months of use, the group who used The Diet Plate lost significantly more weight. Not a little bit, either, but the equivalent to a 300-pound man losing up to 17.1 pounds.

It's clear that portion size is critical to weight control, and if using a smaller plate for meals helps you eat the right portion sizes, I am all for it.