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Does Plate Size Really Matter?

by Courtney on June 4, 2012

Another fun-filled weekend has already come and gone…back to the work week we go! Here’s what was happening in my neck of the woods…

Did anyone else have anything fun going on this weekend?

Breakfast

I’d been looking forward to this meal since I went to bed last night, just for the mere fact that I knew it would involve banana bread.

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I’ve been having no problem working through this loaf, so I have a feeling that the NuNaturals baking blend was most definitely the culprit of my belly bloat before. Hey, at least I figured that one out, right?

Today’s slice got topped with some peanut butter…

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And along with that, I cooked up a veggie scramble made with fresh spinach, scallions, and tomatoes.

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So while I was eating breakfast today, I couldn’t help but notice how “bare” my plate looked, which got me thinking a bit more about plate size.

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The plate I used today is much bigger than the plates I usually use for breakfast, but even though I was eating the same amount of food, it almost felt as if I was getting cheated.

Just take a look at this…the photo on the left is (obviously) today’s breakfast, and the photo on the right is of the same sized veggie scramble that I had a few weeks ago.

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Just looking at the two, the plate on the right (for me, at least) is more visually appealing because it seems as if there’s more food. With all the empty space on the my plate this morning, it felt like I needed to add something else to “fill it in.”

I know this is something I’ve been reading about in magazines and in the news for quite some time now, but I think it’s really something worth mentioning. Because according to the Small Plate Movement,

“A person tends to over-serve onto larger plates, and because people consume an average of 92% of what they serve themselves, larger plates lead to larger food intake. A two inch difference in plate diameter — from 12" to 10" plates — would result in 22% fewer calories being served, yet it is not drastic enough to trigger a counteracting response. If a typical dinner has 800 calories, a smaller plate would lead to a weight loss of around 18 pounds per year for an average size adult.”

I could absolutely, 100% see how this would happen. It’s for this same reason that I can’t end up leaving a self-serve fro yo place without spending five or six dollars…those cups are just so darn big!

Gets me every time.

So the Small Plate Movement encourages people to use 10" diameter plates to decrease the amount of food we eat, without having an effect on our perceived fullness or satisfaction, and I totally agree with them. I try to use our smaller dinner plates as much as possible when eating because it’s just more visually satisfying.

How about you…?

What size dinner plates do you tend to use when eating?

Do you think it makes a difference what size plate you’re eating off of?

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah June 4, 2012 at 8:39 am

Oh my gosh yes! Those fro yo cups are dangerous! I use a pretty regular sized plate during dinner I would have to say that I probably end up eating less when I use a smaller plate. Totally on board for the Small Plate Movement!
Sarah recently posted..Scramby Egg Sundays

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2 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

I definitely feel cheated if I use a HUGE place and it’s not full! Oh psychology…
chelsey @ clean eating chelsey recently posted..spork fed with nasoya (giveaway!)

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3 Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction June 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

I think that it matters to a certain extent. If I am home and I am using a small plate then it is very easy for me to just get up and get more to put on my small plate. But in the case of the frozen yogurt, I completely agree! Those cups look huge until you end up filling up the WHOLE cup! But it’s soooo goooooddddd ;-)
Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction recently posted..Aruba Part 2: The Hotel

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4 Linda June 4, 2012 at 8:42 am

I just got two plates to help with dieting. I can’t wait to post them – and yes plate size is everything!

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5 Kate June 4, 2012 at 8:43 am

I do, but not quite as much as I’m going to now! I’d never seen a side by side like that before.

And I love your fro yo! I only encountered it on a recent trip to the US. I completely understand why you love it so much! That has to be an exception to the small plate rule ;-)
Kate recently posted..Hooray for Rachael…and Yogurt

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6 Caroline @ After Dinner Dance June 4, 2012 at 8:44 am

I don’t think plate size affects what I eat for dinner, but I definitely fall into that trap with things like froyo! I fill it up and then feel like I have to eat it all or I waste money!
Caroline @ After Dinner Dance recently posted..Asian Marinated Salmon

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7 Lauren @ Call Me Mrs. Rapp June 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

I wrote a post on plate size awhile ago! I’ve switched to using the smaller plates that came with our dinner sets. If I’m still hungry after finishing it, I can always get more, but I know I will feel inclined to eat everything, even if it’s on a bigger plate and too much food. Oh to trick your brain ;)
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8 Jaren@Kiwi Fit Blog June 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

The fiance and I were just talking about this! We went and registered that the plate sizes were HUGE, so we got the next size down which was still pretty big and the lady was like those are salad plates not dinner plates, so I told her they were big enough to be plates and we didn’t want big plates because it encourages over eating and she looked at us like we were nuts!
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9 Andrea @ Andrea Out Loud! June 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

it really does make a diff for me! its just the mental thing.
if i am eating something that I know my portion easily gets out of control, I will use a salad plate (think pasta, spagheti, etc)!
Andrea @ Andrea Out Loud! recently posted..Morning Madness, Lots of Beef, & Wine Sale!

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10 Michelle@Peachy Palate June 4, 2012 at 8:54 am

I always go for large plates and bowls….more room for more veggies! :) I think once you get to grips with portion control it doesn’t matter as you know your own body and appetite but as a means of weight loss it’s a good trick!
Michelle@Peachy Palate recently posted..Getting Stronger

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11 Lindsey June 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

Our dinner plates are fairly large so recently I did buy ones that are a bit smaller for this exact reason. It is something I will look at next next we buy a set of dishes for sure. I always feel cheated too when my plate looks half empty! And the fro-yo comment, same here, the bowl has to be full!
Lindsey recently posted..Sunday Run-down

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12 Megan June 4, 2012 at 9:11 am

I completely agree on the plate sizing! I usually use a smaller plate – so when I use a bigger plate, I have to be careful not to put too much on it! (Especially when going out to eat – specifically a buffet style meal.) Although, if it’s a big plate, I try to load one side with veggies. Can’t go wrong there!
Megan recently posted..Preparing for a Full Marathon

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13 Caitlyn M June 4, 2012 at 9:12 am

In my opinion, you can’t over-do veggies haha. So, I just usually fill a bigger plate with more vegetables so it seems like I am eating more! But, I do see this being an issue. Especially when you go out to eat! I always just say, imagine your tummy… then think: can my tummy handle this amount of food? Really?
Caitlyn M recently posted..Getting my Giggle Back

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14 Suzanne @ Fitmindedmom June 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

I almost ALWAYS use a dessert size plate when eating. I do it because it is a great trick for making me think I am getting lots more food than I really am!!
We also use paper plates a lot(classy, I know!!) and they are almost always smaller than regular size dinner plates. Now that I think about it, I cannot remember when I used an actual “dinner” plate to eat off of.
Suzanne @ Fitmindedmom recently posted..Change of Plans

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15 Alyssa @ fit and fun in third June 4, 2012 at 9:25 am

Totally agree with this! Im all about the visuals, and I’d I have a empty looking plate then I’m left feeling like I was cheated!
Alyssa @ fit and fun in third recently posted..Getting back on track!

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16 Alaina June 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

I definitely use a salad plate for my dinners. They make me think that I’m really loading up on food without going overboard. I’ve had the case of eyes being bigger than my stomach before. ;-)

And why is a small fro-yo cup so huge?! That is dangerous.
Alaina recently posted..My Commute

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17 Khushboo June 4, 2012 at 9:47 am

Plate sizes totally make a difference to me- an empty plate doesn’t seem to satisfy, regardless of the meal’s actual portion size.
Khushboo recently posted..Brain Dump

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18 Lindsay @ In Sweetness and In Health June 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

I’ve totally noticed that when I have a bigger plate I just tend to pile on more food! Eek that’s no good haha. I have a feeling though that when I get married I’ll have to get multiple sized plates because Chris will need those bigger ones :). Hope you have a great Monday Courtney!!
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19 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries June 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

i usually use an appetizer size plate (10″ plate) because i totally agree – it’s more visually appealing and makes you think you’re eating more. when there’s so much empty space on a bigger plate, i often feel like i need to fill in the gaps with more food. our dinner plates seem massive too (maybe larger than the average), so i try to stay way from them unless whatever it is i’m eating i really do need a bigger plate so i don’t make a huge mess. have a great day!
Ashley @ My Food ‘N’ Fitness Diaries recently posted..June Goals

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20 Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie June 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

I never thought about the plate thing even though I’ve been reading that too, but I see the difference in your pictures! It’s kind of crazy! This weekend was pretty exciting for me because my sister got married :) Now back to reality…
Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie recently posted..My Best Friend’s Wedding

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21 krystal@coffeecardiogoddess June 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

I honestly think this is sooo true! I’m with you on the fro yo too. I always spend around 5 dollars. I have to fill that baby up!!
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22 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers June 4, 2012 at 10:12 am

Plate size makes a huge difference to me. I serve my meals on lunch plates and the hubby’s on dinner plates. It doesn’t solve portion problems, but it helps a lot!

Oh, and my tummy doesn’t like NuNaturals either.
Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers recently posted..Easy Peasy Weekend

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23 Yellow Haired Girl June 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

I feel cheated when my big plate isn’t full, too! I definitely think it makes a difference!
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24 Shana June 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

I use salad plates for almost all of my meals. I can’t stand when there is a lot of empty plate space. It’s like my brain doesn’t get the memo that it’s the same amount of food and then I feel unsatisfied. Salad plates are the perfect size for since I like to eat EVERYTHING on my plate and keeps me from reaching that “too stuffed” feeling of fullness.
Shana recently posted..A Moment of Clarity

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25 Jodi @ I Run for Food and Wine June 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

I attended my first “Taste Of”…Taste of Music City, and I was able to attend it with a pair of free tickets (a set can cost $120, crazy!). So, that was a lot of fun and I got really full ;)
Jodi @ I Run for Food and Wine recently posted..Taste of Music City Recap

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26 Michelle (Better with Berries) June 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

I definitely think it makes a difference which size plate I use – I usually use as small of a plate as possible that will still fit what I’m eating. It makes me feel like I have more and it doesn’t fill the dishwasher up as quickly :-)
Michelle (Better with Berries) recently posted..Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing

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27 Erica @ For the Sake of Cake June 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

I definitely think that plate size dictates how much I eat! I usually go for a smaller dinner plate to keep things in check!
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28 Sabrina @Work It Ms Jackson June 4, 2012 at 11:16 am

Those fro-yo cups are crazy big! And I definiely think plate size matters. I also think whether or not they have a border makes a difference too. I have two sets of plates at home. They are exactly the same except for the print on them. One covers the whole plate and on has just a border. Whenever I use the one with the border, I always stay within the border of the plate. There is no food on the border but when I use the plate that has a print on the entire plate, I have the same amount of food but because it’s spread out more and there’s no border, it looks like there is less. Its crazy how our eyes can play tricks with our minds like that
Sabrina @Work It Ms Jackson recently posted..A Relaxing Sunday

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29 Annie June 4, 2012 at 11:28 am

Yep I think it makes all the difference especially when you’re still learning how to eat intuitively (like me!). I eat dinner on a smallish plate that I fill up to the brim and I’m satisfied afterwards, however when i go home to my dad’s, his plates are much bigger and it can go two ways: either i’ll have a small portion and feel deprived, even hungry later on (it’s psychological as that would be the same portion i’d have at home), or I’ll have a much bigger portion to fill the plate.

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30 Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers June 4, 2012 at 11:30 am

Plate size doesn’t matterif you can control how much you put on it. If I want a fat plate full to the rim, I load it with salad! Your banana bread looks so good!!
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31 Debbie (Accidently Delish) June 4, 2012 at 11:42 am

I’m the same way! I actually make myself use smaller bowls when I have cereal, because I know if I use a bigger bowl, I WILL FILL IT!!

Same with Fro Yo, but in my mind there really isn’t too much Fro Yo and if you’re going to get it, might as well enjoy it right?

But really for me plate size doesn’t matter, I tend to cook just for myself most of the time, so I cook what I know I’m going to eat, but sometimes yes I’ll stick it on a smaller plate/bowl so I think I’m getting more ;)

Oh the mind. It’s a crazy thing.
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32 michelle kim June 4, 2012 at 11:50 am

I definitely think plate size matters. If there are only big plates, I try to fill the empty space with lots of veggies.
I haven’t solved the fro-yo problem yet. I always fill the whole thing up!
michelle kim recently posted..THANK YOU, EVERYONE!

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33 Angela @ Health Happiness & Harmony June 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Absolutely! We eat we our eyes first.

It reminds me of the variation theory also. For example, if there are one plate of one type of cookie in an office, people would eat less than if there were a few plates with a few different types of cookies. People often feel like they need to try each kind and wind up eating more.
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34 Katie June 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Very interesting to think about! I usually use the smaller plate while my husband uses the big plate. The only real exception is if it’s something with a lot of sauce served with rice or noodles–I need to be able to soak all that goodness up! I will definitely be more conscious of it in the future though! Excellent post!
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35 Alysia @ Slim Sanity June 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I think it definitely makes a difference! But you also have to have the will power not to go for seconds :)
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36 Brittany @Little b's healthy habits June 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I totally agree! I always eat my food on little plates!

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37 Tara Deal June 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm

It’s crazy that you just posted about this, because I always use small salad plates for my meals to keep portions in check. While I was eating dinner last night at my fiance’s parents’ house, my plate looked absolutely bare compared the the rest of the table because I put my normal portion size on a giant dinner plate. I think plate size definitely makes a difference (and yogurt cup size for that matter) it’s crazy how we truly eat with our eyes.
Tara Deal recently posted..Nice and Homey

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38 Jonathan Bechtel June 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

IMO “nudges” like plate size work in the short run, but not so much in the long run.

In the beginning your behavior will mold to its surroundings a little bit, but if your underlying food needs aren’t being met then your behavior will eventually follow suit and you’ll work around the mini obstacles you set for yourself.

So it can a positive compliment to behavior, but if your diet and lifestyle itself is not especially nourishing then you’ll eventually go back to the default.
Jonathan Bechtel recently posted..The Differences Between Whole Food and Synthetic Vitamins

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39 Madison @ Pilates Makes You Happy June 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

It’s amazing how much plate size makes a difference hey?? It shows how easily our minds are tricked!
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40 Maura @ My Healthy 'Ohana June 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I use a regular plate, but I usually fill half of it with a salad…I don’t mind having my foods mix. My husband, on the other hand, must have everything separate, so sometimes his plate looks a little empty!
Maura @ My Healthy ‘Ohana recently posted..Strawberry Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

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41 Kristen June 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Plate size helps your hip size, for sure! I eat all my meals on small dessert plates. I especially love when I can go back for a little extra. The only time I use a “regular” dinner plate is for salad! Then get those empty plates out of sight…avoid temptation to fill them up too many times.

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42 Katy June 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I have read many similar things regarding plate size.
Another interesting tidbit- eating off a blue plate can cause you to eat up to 30% less! Why? Natural foods are not typically “blue” so the contrast of colors looks less appetizing. Also, there is a theory that blue is a calming color and it relaxes the body so we feel more comfortable and want to eat less. Personally, I judge food more on smell than appearance so I’m not sure that would influence my appetite :-)
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43 Allison June 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm

It’s funny that you posted about plate size because I was just having this conversation with my parents last night. I have been using smaller plates for several years now because it looks visually more appealing. We have some large square plates that just leave way too much empty space. I really dislike how oversized they are. The smaller plate makes it look like I am eating more and keeps me from overloading on food at dinner. It’s easy to fill up your whole plate with unnecessary calories. My parents have recently adapted my small plate habits and agree with me. My dad has been on Weight Watchers for a year or so and has lost 40 pounds. His big problem is portion control, so I hope the smaller plates will help him.

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44 Lisa June 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm

I actually never feel inclined to fill my plate all the way. I HATE when my food touches, so big plates are essential! Unless I use like 3 little plates, but that’s a hassle to clean. I just serve my portion and if its not full, I don’t really think twice about it. I guess it would definitely help if you were overweight, trying to lose weight to use smaller plates though, if you like your plate seeming more full.
Lisa recently posted..Pumpkin coconut bars and tea

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45 Stephanie @My Freckled Life June 5, 2012 at 8:10 am

I have actually heard that larger plates can lead you to overeat as well, and I think it is absolutely true. I think our generation is all about getting the bang for their buck, so you feel a little jipped when your food only fills half your plate. I have 2 sets of plates at my house, one smaller and one a little larger, and I might have to do a comparison like you did on how much food I actually put on my plate when using the different sizes! Thanks for the thoughtful post!
Stephanie @My Freckled Life recently posted..Turning into a pineapple

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46 lauren June 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I know magazines and such always say to use a small plate, and I think it is good to use that trick when you’re forming a habit. Personally, I like to keep everything separate on my plate, so a larger plate works for that! I also tend to eat a lot of veggie heavy stuff, and I always appreciate the extra room for more veggies!

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47 Shannon June 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Not sure what plate size I use at dinner. I’m pretty sure it’s either 8″ in diameter or 10″.

I’m definitely sure my food intake depends on the plate size I have. If it’s a huge plate, I’m most likely going to pile up on more food than if it was an average sized plate.

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48 Trisha June 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I’m totally guilty of filling up larger plates because I like the “look” of a full plate better. Luckily, some of my favorite cute plates are usually the smaller appetizer size & are perfect for food pics on the blog. I have now started to eat most of my meals on these smaller plates, mostly because it looks better, but I like the idea of killing two birds with one stone!
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49 Carly June 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I think this can be true sometimes but when I have a smaller Plate or bowl I actually tend to overfill it and then when I end up having I put it in a larger container it still is about full haha. So I almost think that for me at least starting with a medium sized plate or bowl I know not to fill it all the way up; maybe I’m just strange like that

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