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For Weight Loss, Consider Changing the Color of Your Dinnerware

Dieting and Plate Color

Switching plate color to contrast with food helps people eat less

One common weight loss tip, especially for those managing situations such as buffets or parties, is to use a smaller plate so that you eat less. New research suggests that you may also want to consider the color of your dinnerware, as it can also influence the amount of calories you take in.

A common visual test is one based on something called the “Delbouef Illusion” where two identical sized circles are placed side by side and then surrounded by circles of differing sizes. When asked which interior circle is smaller, people often choose the one framed by the larger circle. Researchers with the Georgia Institute of Technology used this theory to study the eating habits of nearly 200 participants, aged 18 to 39 who were served different-sized plates filled with food.

As expected, those who were given larger plates filled up with more food. However, the researchers also noted that those whose plate color contrasted the most with the food that they selected ate less as well. The darker color surrounding the food created an optical illusion that caused the dieters to eat less, by about 10%.

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A similar situation held true for the color of the tablecloth that they ate upon. When the dinner plate contrasted with the tablecloth, the eaters saw the plate as smaller and ate less. Think about a white plate on a white tablecloth. It’s hard to determine where the edge of the plate ends and the tablecloth begins, so you may find you serve yourself more food.

A separate study, performed at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain found that strawberry mouse placed on a white plate was considered sweeter and more enjoyable than the same dessert placed on a black plate.

How could this be used in practice? “It may be easier to change our personal environments than to change our minds,” write researchers Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum. If you are eating mashed potatoes, for example, instead of serving them on a white or ivory colored plate, break out the red holiday pattern or Southwest-inspired dishes. However, you could also use the trick to eat more of something healthful. A plate of broccoli might be more appetizing if placed on a green plate.

Another tip, as studied previously by the University of Hawaii, is to choose blue dinnerware for your meals. Blue is seen as an appetite suppressant because it is a rare occurrence in nature. Consequently, we don’t have an automatic appetite response to the color. Plus, blue brings about feelings of calmness or serenity, so you may find you eat more slowly, thus allowing the stomach to register when it is full, thus preventing overeating.

For that New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you may also want to change the light in your refrigerator to blue, and the “midnight munchies” may disappear as well!