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Is Color Affecting Your Diet?

A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research uncovered a tip that might help you shave calories from your diet and lose weight faster: the color of your plate influences how much you eat!

ABC News reported on this study, which showed a correlation between serving size and both color contrast and plate size. As it turns out, people are likely to serve larger portions of food with little color contrast, and larger portions of food on larger dishes.
Why? Optical illusions. When the color of your meal contrasts the color of the plate it’s on (orange sweet potatoes on a white plate), you can clearly see how much you’re serving yourself. However, when there’s not much contrast (grilled salmon on a light red plate), you’re inclined to take in larger portions. And of course, the larger the plate, the smaller the serving will look.

Good Morning America did a quick experiment using spaghetti dinners. They asked people to serve up some pasta with red marinara sauce on alternating red and white plates. The participants were instructed to scoop out equal portions of noodles, which were weighed afterward. The assumption was that people would scoop more red pasta onto the low-contrast red plates, and less onto the white ones—which is exactly what happened.

So how can you plan for successful colors?

  • Color-blind yourself. You probably don’t have a set of dishes that contrasts every possible meal, but you can set some objective standards for your serving sizes. Portioning your meals by measured scoops may be more reliable than getting your plate to look full.
  • Use smaller plates. Your meals will look bigger and you’ll eat less if your frame of reference is smaller. Putting your meals on salad plates instead of full-sized dinner plates will make your meals look fuller, so you can avoid needless calories.

Do you think color affects the way you eat? Let us know!