Want to eat less? Change the color of your plate


Changing the color of your plate could help you cut down on eating certain foods. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)

When it comes to food, you know that portion and plate size matters. But color? Indeed, the color of your plate can make you eat more – or less. If you're trying to get rid of a few extra pounds, you might try serving your meals on a plate that contrasts sharply with your food.

According to a 2012 Cornell University study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, a high color contrast between food and plate makes you eat less.

In the study, participants who served themselves pasta Alfredo on a white plate (not much contrast) heaped on 22 percent more pasta than those who were given red plates (lots of contrast).

The researchers found that color contrast helps mitigate the Delboeuf illusion -- the perception that there is less food on a plate if there is more room between the edge of the food and the edge of the plate. Other research has suggested that the illusion causes people to over-serve food on larger dinner plates, and under-serve on smaller ones.

At 22 percent, imagine how much of a difference switching out dinner plates could mean for the waistline over time.

Unfortunately, white – a common color for dinnerware – is not necessarily associated with the healthiest food choices. Take the study's pasta Alfredo, which can contain as much as 1,220 calories per serving and 235 percent of your daily value for saturated fat.

On the other hand, imagine if you had green plates. You might end up cutting down on white foods, such as pasta. And that choice could nudge you toward other healthy choices, such as eating greens. It’s worth a try.

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Lenny Bernstein · March 21, 2014