Plates, portions and weight control

We eat with our eyes and the size of our plate influences how hungry or satisfied we feel after eating a meal.  Over the past few decades portion sizes served in restaurants and cafes have increased. In the USA, the average restaurant meal today is over 4 times larger than in the 1950’s, with Ireland following a similar trend. This promotes over eating and can lead to weight gain and obesity. Studies show that people are generally eating an extra 200-300 calories per day more than they actually need, so it’s not surprising our waist lines are expanding!

While larger plates and bowls may look stylish, research consistently shows eating from them leads us to serve and eat bigger portions. Why? It all comes down to a sneaky optical illusion, the ‘Delboeuf illusion’.
This describes how larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller, so we add more to the plate! The picture below demonstrates this theory, the same-sized central circle (the test circle in black) appears smaller when surrounded by a much larger concentric circle, than when surrounded by only a slightly larger concentric circle. This helps us to understand that our perception of food portion size is linked with the size of the plate it is served on. Switching to a smaller dinner plate puts you in greater control, and less likely to over-eat.

The Dietitians at Croí have redesigned the Croí Portion Plate. The plate is split to guide you to eat balanced meals and healthy portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to aim for half a plate of vegetables/salad, ¼ plate of lean protein and  ¼ plate of wholegrain carbohydrates. Portion size guides are included on the back of the plate.

5 tips to perfect your portions

  1. Check the size of your dinner plates, a standard plate size should be no more than 9 ½ inches.
  2. Leave a cup measure in your cereal, rice, or pasta container so you have a clear idea of how much you’re scooping out each time.
  3. Focus on food quality, not quantity, and take the time to savour and enjoy the smell, taste and texture of every mouthful.
  4. Lean meat portions half the size of your palm are perfect. Cut yours down to size and save the leftovers for lunch the next day!
  5. Always include some vegetables or salad at every meal (aim for half your plate), these are low calorie nutrient rich foods that provide vitamins and minerals for good health.