You’ve probably heard of the term “portion distortion” in conjunction with massive restaurant size servings. A serving could provide the equivalent of three meals in one sitting. As portion sizes have slowly increased, plates sizes have also grown to accommodate them. Now, a new study released online in Pediatrics today finds that the size of the plate affects how much children will serve themselves and eat.
Forty-two elementary school aged children were observed during school lunches serving themselves on either a child-sized or twice as big adult-sized plates. The children were allowed to serve themselves entrees (chicken nuggets or pasta), vegetables, and fruits. Children using the larger plates served themselves more, and tended to consume more calories. Unfortunately, children would serve themselves more of everything…except the vegetable.
Why is this important? There are a few reasons. The current United States nutrition guidelines, “Choose My Plate,” are centered on using a plate to depict the appropriate amount of protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables per meal. If the size of the plate is influencing your family’s intake, even the perfect variety of foods can be over-portioned, causing excess intake.
In many modern families, older children are often left to serve themselves and their younger siblings breakfast or dinner while their parents work long hours. Even their best efforts for a balanced meal can be derailed when serving on too large of a plate.