Larger plates lead to more eating. A new trend starts.

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By Erika Weisensee

Over the years, our dinner plates have grown larger and larger. Unfortunately, so have our waistlines. The Small Plate Movement is aimed at helping American families lose weight and feel healthier by reducing the size of dinnerware. Can losing weight really be as simple as eating off of smaller plates? Well, it’s a start. According to scientific research, people take up to 25% more food when they use larger plates.

The Small Plate Movement is a combined effort of the academic, medical and government communities, as well as private industries. The coalition, whose work centers around a media and public awareness campaign, is currently promoting its “Small Plate Movement Challenge,” urging people to eat their largest meal of the day off a plate that is 10-inches or smaller.

The sizes of plates, bowls and glasses have steadily increased over the years. Researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a professor at Cornell University and the author of “Mindless Eating,” reports that the surface area of dinner plates has increased by 36% since 1960. Many dinner plates are now 12-inches or more and some restaurants use plates, platters really, as large as 14 inches. In addition, the super-sized portions pushed at fast food and other restaurants consistently offer 250 percent more than a regular portion.

In scientific experiments, Wansink and others have found that people serve themselves in proportion to the size of the plate they are using, and they do it without even realizing it. While 3 oz. of mashed potatoes or pasta may look like a decent amount on a 10-inch plate, it looks like considerably less on a 12-inch plate, so people tend to over serve and then over eat. In Wansink’s experiments, even nutritional experts were tricked into serving themselves more when given the larger plates.

The Small Plate Movement is an educational and public awareness campaign aimed at both families and restaurants. To learn more and to see supporting research, visit www.smallplatemovement.org.

###  Erika is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing and communication courses at the University of Portland.