Environmental factors, such as the size of containers, can influence our energy intake. Even though different sized food containers are often recommended to control portion sizes, the evidence to support this is contradictory. In the present study, we conducted a literature review and a controlled laboratory experiment to investigate whether plate size influences the composition of a meal and the total meal energy. The results of the review suggest that distraction factors, the type of container, the food-serving mode (self-service or being served) and the type of food offered all influenced the results observed in the various published studies. For the experiment in this study, eighty-three participants were individually invited to serve themselves a lunch from a buffet containing 55 replica food items. Either a standard size plate (27 cm) or a large plate (32 cm) was provided to the participants. The results of the experiment suggest that the plate size had no significant effect on the total energy of the meal (F(1,81) =0.782, P> .05). However, participants using a large plate served themselves significantly more vegetables (F(1,81) =4.786, P< .05), particularly vegetables generally eaten as side dishes (F(1,81) =6.804, P< .05). Therefore, reducing the plate size does not seem to be an appropriate intervention to reduce the total energy intake in order to promote weight loss. Rather, using a large plate might be a simple and inexpensive strategy to increase vegetable consumption.
Keywords: Container size; Fake food buffet; Meal composition; Nudge; Plate size; Portion size.
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