It Seems Size Really Does Matter


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  56 comments   :  20,122 Views

Over the past 50 years the average dinner plate has increased from 9 inches in diameter to between 11 and 12 inches. A two to three inch increase may not seem like a big deal until you understand that increasing the plate size ever so slightly allows for an extra 50% surface area to fill-up. Couple this with the greater convenience of food and it isn't surprising that our waistbands are expending right along with the size of our plates.

Portion distortion is just one of the many factors that may be responsible for the growing obesity epidemic across the globe.  With the increase in portion sizes from restaurants and fast food eateries even to the portions we serve at home, we have become a nation of gluttony.
How many of us truly knew how much we were eating prior to joining SparkPeople? It's so easy to fill up our plate and not give too much thought as to the amount of food we planned to consume. If you are like me, I am an honorary member of the Clean Plate Club. In other words I find great comfort in cleaning my plate with every meal. This is a habit I have been trying to break for some time now.

Plate size is not the only concern. According to a study published last summer in the Journal of Consumer Research, fork size may also play a role in the amount of food we consume.The study showed that patrons in an Italian restaurant who were given a larger fork versus an 'unusually small fork' ate less food than those given the smaller fork.

The theory according to the authors of the study is "the small fork gives a feeling that they are not making much progress in satiating their hunger, which results in more consumption compared to when they have a large fork."
When I came across this study I was quite intrigued with the results as I frequently eat from a smaller fork at home. I never associated the size of my fork to the amount of food I was eating. For me, because I pre-measure all my food before putting it on my plate I never even gave much thought that the size of my fork could impact the amount of food I consume at each meal.
So the next time you visit your local restaurant you may want to ask for the biggest fork they have. And if you are at home, step down to using a smaller plate.  While these are just two small changes, if they make us more aware of our portion size than I see no harm in giving this a try.
What do you think about this study? Were you aware that fork size has an association to how much food one may consume during a meal?

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    i've started to pre measure my food and eat! - 1/16/2012   4:40:25 PM
  • 55
    Very interesting blog-I always eat my food on a small plate and I also use a child size fork and spoon. It is a joke in my house that no one will use my fork and spoon because they are so small. - 1/15/2012   4:23:17 PM
    I have used a salad fork and a lunch plate for years. Dinner plates look so large to me now. When I am at someone s house for a meal, I consciously take only what I would put on my lunch plate, while other people are overloading their plates.....I usually get asked if I am not feeling well. I say I feel fine and that I eat to live, not, live to eat. - 1/13/2012   6:21:44 PM
  • 53
    Not sure about the fork portion, but I agree about the smaller plate. I bought one smaller plate to experiment with and I was shocked at how much better my meals looked on it. The bigger plate that came with my dinnerware always made it look like I wasn't putting enough food on my plate (food was pre-measured). On the smaller plate, the serving size looked perfect! - 1/13/2012   3:58:34 PM
  • 52
    The fork study....well, does not make much sense to I use a smaller fork, not to take smaller bites, but because my mouth is small and it fits better in my hand. I do not intend to ask for a bigger fork or use one at home either. - 1/13/2012   10:44:02 AM
  • 51
    I have been looking for a set of nice dinnerware with a 9 inch plate but have not had any luck. I am always amazed at how much food my 16 yr old boy can pile on his plate. I'm glad he has his metabolism and not mine! Thank goodness he enjoys vegetables, too! - 1/13/2012   9:15:02 AM
  • 50
    I like little forks.

    When I started switching to smaller forks I noticed that it DID take longer to eat my food -- something that I *really* needed, because I was eating large portions. So, my opinion about the fork findings is that it doesn't apply to all people.

    The longer it takes to satiate my hunger, the more full I'm likely to feel, and the more I'm likely to feel like the portion in front of me is either more than enough or too much (i.e., not run and get another, or unsatisfied) -- kind of the opposite of what the study results came up with. It must be an individual thing.

    Anyway, my hands are nearly child-size, so it feels better to my fingers, and wrists to not hold an oversized fork. ;)

    Jocelyn - 1/12/2012   10:04:50 PM
  • 49
    I need the larger plate, not for holding a larger portion, but so I don't spill so much food....I always thought I should invent an "Adult" style bib, too, as I also seem to miss my mouth all too often. According to my wife, I should not have a weight problem at all, considering how often food misses my mouth...LOL - 1/12/2012   4:16:14 PM
    Makes a lot of sense! - 1/12/2012   3:37:12 PM
  • 47
    That's a very interesting study. I don't think I have ever considered my fork size... - 1/12/2012   2:37:49 PM
  • 46
    Portion sizes are certainly important; not so sure I agree with fork sizing. - 1/12/2012   2:18:27 PM
  • 45
    I'm not surprized about the plate size increasing. I read Brian Wansink's book called Mindless Eating and was shocked to learn how the food industry finds ways to gets us to buy (and eat) more food.

    As far as the size of the fork. Honestly, I never noticed my fork since they always seemed uniform to me.

    Now, I do remember reading a few articles on a new diet "craze" where people ate baby food with tiny spoons. the idea being you eat teeny portions with the tiny spoon. what concerns me is that the articles stated how that baby food craze was taken up by the online anorexia community. adults should be eating like adults, not babies.

    I sincerely doubt the size of the fork caused Americans to eat more. I do feel that a lot of different factors that seemed to collide with each other over the years is what caused the increase in the American waistline. So things like the increase of plate size, the increase of serving sizes, the lack of eating at home as a family, the lack of home cooking, the prevalence of fast food chains all over the country, the lack of exercise, etc...

    - 1/12/2012   10:07:59 AM
    I always use a salad plate and it does help me keep my portions in control. I have to feed my 11 month old at same time, so I think I'll stick with my regular fork, it takes me long enough to eat as it is! - 1/12/2012   9:28:24 AM
  • 43
    Interesting information --- but *incomplete* and somewhat misleading....

    By clicking on the word "study" in the above article I was directed to the research article itself. Interestingly, the fork findings were only applicable in a restaurant setting.

    The other part of the study, done in a laboratory, came up with the opposite result, ie. smaller forks led to eating less, larger forks to eating more. Go figure.

    Personally, I just don't like big plates or big forks. I'm a small person from a family of small people, and was raised using smaller plates and utensils.

    Eating at home wins hands down anyway. I plan on sticking with my small plate/small fork at home, and eating out as little as possible, no matter what size of plate or fork.
    - 1/11/2012   10:51:14 PM
    This type of information convinced me to seek smaller plates and be more conscious of how we fill them. But it is hard to find 9" plates. Hopefully, with more exposure, manufacturers will give us more options. - 1/11/2012   7:07:27 PM
    i use smaller plates all the right now, eggplant parm for dinner on a 7" salad plate. - 1/11/2012   6:26:31 PM
    Size do matter ! Smaller plates really work well ! - 1/11/2012   5:12:30 PM
  • 39
    Fork size finding doesn't make sense to me. I use a tiny fork so I have to take longer to eat my food from my small plate. - 1/11/2012   5:11:32 PM
  • 38
    Wow, to me the fork finding is counter-intuitive. How ever I'm using silverware from the '50's and '60's so that's not a problem. I've been eating from a "salad" plate of a '70's dish set for years. Once you get two servings of vegetables and a serving of protein on the plate there really isn't much room left. Oh, and yes, I've been measuring for 20 years or so. - 1/11/2012   4:20:42 PM
  • 37
    Smaller plates and measuring portions.....makes sense.

    Larger fork makes no sense at all. Like numerous others have said, if you eat off a smaller fork you take smaller bites, which slows you down and gives you a chance to feel full.

    The only reason a large fork causes me to eat less is because I have a small mouth and can barely use large utensils. Especially in some restaurants that have those HUGE forks I have to take very tiny bites off the tip to use them at all, so usually I eat a few bites and just box the rest of my meal to take home, where I can eat it later with a small fork. haha - 1/11/2012   3:57:55 PM
    I knew about the plate size playing into how much a person ate. But never in a million years would I have thought about the size of the fork. Very interesting for sure. - 1/11/2012   2:22:54 PM
  • 35
    We learned the smaller plate approach years back with Weigh Down Workshop, and I do believe it is very helpful. We were given a set of flatware (the huge European style has forks that resemble meat platter serving forks), but I haven't made any connection there. Due to dental work, my husband usually chooses the smaller spoons.
    Will try this out for myself, and see which helps more. Agree that it is very individualized! - 1/11/2012   2:17:32 PM
    A bigger fork doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't a smaller one slow you down, therefore fill you up sooner?
    Any way I'm too old to "trick" myself. I'm wise to all that. ;) - 1/11/2012   1:47:47 PM
    I have never thought about it like this. I am going to try downsizing my plate and using a smaller fork and see if it helps. Thanks for the suggestions. - 1/11/2012   12:09:54 PM
  • 32
    Use salad fork all the time. - 1/11/2012   11:36:22 AM
  • 31
    The fork thing is new to me. I use smaller plates now for my meals, and that has really helped me with portions.
    - 1/11/2012   10:55:12 AM
  • 30
    Interesting. Use a small plate, small fork and spoon. After years of having a very short lunch break this helps me eat slower and enjoy the flavor of the food. I agree with an earlier reply that if you measure your portions the amount of food eaten would be the same. - 1/11/2012   10:01:27 AM
    Small plates , I get to use the bone china dishes; big forks , out comes the best silver.Good reason to dress the table and eat there. Never thought that a weight loss journey would have us dining as if everyday was Sunday. - 1/11/2012   9:23:08 AM
    I have always used A salad plate for my own meals and a small fork, as I am only 5ft and only have room for 24 teeth in my mouth it makes sense to me. Also I find that using a smaller fork and not being able to put as much on it I full fuller quicker because, my brain has had time to adjust and tell me when I have had enough and not over eaten by shovelling in larger amounts and not chewing it enough before swallowing. - 1/11/2012   7:37:42 AM
  • 27
    I agree with the previous posts! We use the main dinner plate as a serving platter and the salad plates as our regular plates. We use the bowls for salad. Also, my family likes "seconds" so we always serve "half" portions, then go back for the other "half" if necessary. Many times we don't need "seconds". - 1/11/2012   6:02:10 AM
  • 26
    we recently bought a new dinner set but the main plates are huge! After using them a few times and having complaints from the entire family that they weren't having enough food (it was the usual portion size, it just looked tiny on these plates) I decided to start using the side plates instead. Believe me, they are plenty big enough and now there are no more complains and they even leave some because they are too 'full'. Again, i haven't changed portion sizes just plate sizes but their brain tells them something different. It definately works! - 1/11/2012   5:47:24 AM
  • 25
    I believe that using a smaller plate leads to taking smaller portions. I am not so sure about the big fork study though. A friend of mine had lap band surgery 10 months ago and shortly after having it a nurse suggested she use a teeny, tiny fork like the kind for appetizers, and eat off a saucer to make sure she took tiny bites and ate tiny portions. Tiny, well-chewed bites are important after having lap band and other gastric surgeries. If this theory is correct it goes against the big fork theory. With so much conflicting information in the diet and weight loss industry, it is best to just find what works for you that you are willing to commit to making a lifestyle change. Consistency and patience are key factors to loosing weight. - 1/11/2012   5:34:09 AM
  • 24
    I laughed a bit because my husband likes the "big" forks and I eat off the little forks. Nice article. Thanks. - 1/11/2012   2:26:42 AM
  • 23
    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!! I agree that for most people switching up these things could help. The plates I have in my apartment are actually pretty large, but they are a dark cerulean blue. I actually like putting smaller amounts of food on there to let the color show through than have it covered with food. I grew up with mostly white dishes so now that I have colored ones, it makes me want to see that more! - 1/11/2012   12:06:16 AM
  • 22
    Interesting study. I usually go for the smaller utensils -- teaspoon instead of soup spoon, salad fork intead of dinner fork. I'm going to have to change my ways! - 1/10/2012   11:03:58 PM
  • RITAKAU2015
    I have never heard of the fork study before. This was a very interesting article. - 1/10/2012   10:50:39 PM
  • 20
    Until I learned to measure my portions, Thank You Sparkpeople, I filled my large dinner plate and ate every bite. Now I'm learning other ways to feel satiated with my meals. This includes using smaller plates and lots of educated common sense. - 1/10/2012   10:02:57 PM
  • 19
    Doesn't really surprise me at all. Good article - 1/10/2012   10:01:43 PM
  • 18
    I use bowls more often than plates (I live alone, and they make life much simpler). My go-to bowl size has decreased from a large pasta-size bowl to a very small Japanese rice bowl--and my satisfaction hasn't decreased one iota. Only for salads now do I return to my larger dishes.

    Not sure about utensil size: I have an unusually small mouth (according to my dentist) so a small implement is only practical (used a kiddy-fork and spoon for years). - 1/10/2012   9:50:05 PM
  • 17
    I always use a small plate-sometimes even the bread plate for my meals and the dessert fork. Everyone else in the family thinks I'm crazy. - 1/10/2012   9:43:46 PM
  • 16
    I've been using small pyrex bowls for my work meals now for a couple of years. - 1/10/2012   9:39:37 PM
  • 15
    I knew about useing a smaller plate. I have been trying to get in the habit for awhile now, but the size of the fork I never thought about. I use a smaller fork at home just because I like how it feels in my hand but the idea of the bigger one sounds good to me. Small plate big - 1/10/2012   9:29:01 PM
  • 14
    I use small plate, portion control and a small fork, that is because I prefer the smaller fork. Me being my inquisitive self will use a large fork instead, just to see what I feel about it Pat in Maine. - 1/10/2012   9:25:39 PM
  • 13
    For me, the smaller plate works......tremendously. As for the fork size....who would have thought? - 1/10/2012   9:24:23 PM
  • 12
    I do believe that using a smaller plate helps to control the amount of food you eat. I know when I use a bread plate instead of a dinner plate will eat a lot less! I am less likely to go back for seconds etc as well. Also, I think the fact that restaurants and fast food places have crammed so much food into their servings that we demand more food! I know many people who have gone to a restaurant that serves proper portioned meals and they complain about how little food they were given! - 1/10/2012   8:26:43 PM
  • 11
    Large fork, small plate - such nonsense. Practice portion control and eat on whatever plate you like with a pitchfork, if you want to! That is really the bottom line to getting a handle on consumption. - 1/10/2012   8:19:49 PM
  • 10
    I had also heard the plate theory, but not about the fork size. Sometimes I use a smaller fork, but now that I am measuring everything the size of my fork or plate doesn't really matter. - 1/10/2012   8:03:13 PM
  • 9
    I know that my mother has two sets of flatware with markedly different sizes of forks, and that I really do dislike using the smaller forks. I also dislike it when someone gives me a salad fork rather than a regular dinner fork to eat a meal with. I think it has something to do with the satiety part of the equation. However, I grew up using a teaspoon to eat everything with. My dad likes a soup spoon for soup because he feels it is more efficient, but neither my mother nor I like a soup spoon. I guess it's just a matter of what you get used to. - 1/10/2012   7:59:08 PM
    I use a smaller fork because I don't want to pull my tonsils out while eating, lol. I just can't use a big fork. - 1/10/2012   7:52:48 PM
    I use a smaller fork sometimes - but I'm not sure it effects the amount I eat. We don't have salad plates in our regular set. I do try to eat from the "My plate" philosophy of filling half of your plate with veggies and or fruit. That has been really helpful! I do want to comment on the clean plate club - My mom taught me many great things - even about diet. However, the clean plate club was not one of them! - 1/10/2012   7:37:31 PM

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