Portion control utensils and reduced size tableware amongst other tools, have the potential to guide portion size intake but their effectiveness remains controversial. This review evaluated the breadth and effectiveness of existing portion control tools on learning/awareness of appropriate portion sizes (PS), PS choice, and PS consumption. Additional outcomes were energy intake and weight loss. Published records between 2006-2020 (n = 1241) were identified from PubMed and WoS, and 36 publications comparing the impact of portion control tools on awareness (n = 7 studies), selection/choice (n = 14), intake plus related measures (n = 21) and weight status (n = 9) were analyzed. Non-tableware tools included cooking utensils, educational aids and computerized applications. Tableware included mostly reduced-size and portion control/calibrated crockery/cutlery. Overall, 55% of studies reported a significant impact of using a tool (typically smaller bowl, fork or glass; or calibrated plate). A meta-analysis of 28 articles confirmed an overall effect of tool on food intake (d = -0.22; 95%CI: -0.38, -0.06; 21 comparisons), mostly driven by combinations of reduced-size bowls and spoons decreasing serving sizes (d = -0.48; 95%CI: -0.72, -0.24; 8 comparisons) and consumed amounts/energy (d = -0.22; 95%CI: -0.39, -0.05, 9 comparisons), but not by reduced-size plates (d = -0.03; 95%CI: -0.12, 0.06, 7 comparisons). Portion control tools marginally induced weight loss (d = -0.20; 95%CI: -0.37, -0.03; 9 comparisons), especially driven by calibrated tableware. No impact was detected on PS awareness; however, few studies quantified this outcome. Specific portion control tools may be helpful as potentially effective instruments for inclusion as part of weight loss interventions. Reduced size plates per se may not be as effective as previously suggested.
Keywords: portion control tool; portion size; portion size awareness; tableware; weight loss.