Use your salad plates instead. You can cut your calories by almost 50% without even measuring just by eating off the smaller salad plates. Obviously, you’ll be eating less, but you’re more likely to serve yourself a reasonable portion size and be more satisfied.
First, let’s look at how many calories you’ll save by packing away your 10-inch dinner plates and using the 8-inch salad plates. A researcher from Food and Health Communications diced up some bread, spread it evenly on different sized plates, and then figured out the different serving sizes and the calories.
An eleven-inch plate might have you eating 542 calories or more. If you routinely grab your salad plates rather than your larger dinner plates, you’d save 225 calories per meal and forestall adding 23 pounds* to the scale over the next year. Definitely, a better choice to make.
If you’re eating at a buffet, consider using the salad plates instead of the usual dinner plates they offer. And remember to pick up the paper salad plates during those summer barbecues and picnics.
To make eating off the smaller plate an automatic behavior instead of a conscious choice each time, you might pack away your dinner plates and make your salad plates the only choice for meals. You could put the dinner plates on the top shelf and bring your smaller plates down where they’re easiest to reach. Or just switch places. You’ll automatically reach for whatever plates are in the “usual” spot.
Similar to using the smaller plates, change to smaller bowls for breakfast cereal, soups, and desserts. Scoop the ice cream into a 4- or 6-ounce bowl instead of the usual 18-ounce cereal bowl.
Research is investigating why smaller plates work (after all you could go back for seconds). Of course, there’s the physical reality of smaller space equals less food which equals fewer calories. But why don't we serve ourselves smaller portions regardless of the plate size? It’s an optical illusion (Delboeuf illusion, see image below) that has us serving larger portion sizes on larger plates. The portion looks smaller with more white space so we add a bit more.
We use visual cues to assess portion size. One ounce of potato chips looks like a more satisfying portion when placed on a salad plate than on a larger plate (11-inches). ￼ The flared edges of the 9-inch salad plate on the right makes it more likely that only the flat center area will be filled giving you a 7-inch space to fill instead.
If you think 11-inch or 10-inch plates are normal, they’re not. Over time dinner plates have grown. And it’s not only in the last 100 years. Paintings of the Last Supper over the last one thousand years were analyzed by Brian and Craig Wansink. They found that the plate size in the paintings has grown by 66%. Learn more about their findings in The Largest Last Supper.
*225 calories saved at every dinner over the next 365 days adds up to 82,125 calories. Divide that by the 3,500 calories you’ll need to give up to lose one pound of fat. And you have 23 pounds you didn’t gain. (Note: there is some discussion about whether it really does take a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose one pound of fat. Though the general consensus is that real-world weight loss is unique to each individual, the 3,500 is still commonly used.)