Will smaller plates lead to smaller waists? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect that experimental manipulation of dishware size has on energy consumption

Obes Rev. 2014 Oct;15(10):812-21. doi: 10.1111/obr.12200. Epub 2014 Jul 11.


It has been suggested that providing consumers with smaller dishware may prove an effective way of helping people eat less and preventing weight gain, but experimental evidence supporting this has been mixed. The objective of the present work was to examine the current evidence base for whether experimentally manipulated differences in dishware size influence food consumption. We systematically reviewed studies that experimentally manipulated the dishware size participants served themselves at a meal with and measured subsequent food intake. We used inverse variance meta-analysis, calculating the standardized mean difference (SMD) in food intake between smaller and larger dishware size conditions. Nine experiments from eight publications were eligible for inclusion. The majority of experiments found no significance difference in food intake when participants ate from smaller vs. larger dishware. With all available data included, analysis indicated a marginal effect of dishware size on food intake, with larger dishware size associated with greater intake. However, this effect was small and there was a large amount of heterogeneity across studies (SMD: -0.18, 95% confidence interval: -0.35, 0.00, I(2) = 77%). Evidence to date does not show that dishware size has a consistent effect on food intake, so recommendations surrounding the use of smaller plates/dishware to improve public health may be premature.

Keywords: Delboeuf illusion; dishware; food intake; plate size.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooking and Eating Utensils*
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Portion Size* / psychology