Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

My Plate is My Plate

Most likely, you’ve seen USDA’s new food guide, MyPlate. I agree that it was high time to move away from the ancient pyramids. Choosing a plate as the new symbol of healthful eating makes a lot of sense. A plate suggests a meal; meals lead you to eating at regular intervals and more variety. But then come the rules telling you what and how much to put on your plate. They even tell you to “enjoy your food, but eat less.” In the end, MyPlate is the same old pyramid, just a new shape. Ellyn Satter had some advice for the policy makers (if only they would ask) in her recent newsletter.

Speaking of plates, I still hear the advice to serve food on a smaller one to help with weight loss. Like so many well-meaning suggestions, it really doesn’t work that way.

Researcher Barbara Rolls and her colleagues at Pennsylvania State University looked at the effect of plate size on food consumption.  In each of the three study variations, participants were remarkably consistent in eating the same amount whether they ate from a dinner plate or a smaller plate. Participants rated hunger and food taste as the primary influences on their food intake.

“Use a smaller plate” and “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” are two examples of  the many control messages aimed at getting you to eat less than your body needs or desires.

You have internal regulators to guide you in your food selections and amounts.  Give yourself trust messages: “My food looks appealing on a dinner plate,” “I like my fruit in a separate bowl,” “I enjoy my food the most when I ____________.”  You’ll know a trust message when you hear it–it will bring pleasure to your meal.

Rolls B, Roe L, Halverson K, Meengs J. Using a smaller plate did not reduce energy intake at meals. Appetite. 2007;49:652-660.