Could the Fix for Fat be Plate Size??

aaa_thumb_1363127494A children’s health site we follow recently posted a headline that read, Plate Size Could Affect Kids’ Weight.

Wow, really? Is it possible that one approach to solving this complicated problem could be that simple? Seriously?

The article cited new research published in Pediatrics, the go-to academic journal for kid docs. We went right to the source and here’s the gist of what the study showed:


from Pediatrics 
April 1, 2013, Volume 131, Issue 4

OBJECTIVES: Dishware size is thought to influence eating behaviors, but effects on children’s self-served portion sizes and intakes have not been studied. We aimed to evaluate whether larger dishware increased children’s self-served portion sizes and intake during meals.

METHODS: Subjects were elementary school–aged children (n = 42) observed on repeated occasions during school lunch. Children served themselves an entree and side dishes using either child- or adult-size dishware, which represented a 100% increase in the surface area of plates and volume of bowls. Entrées were evaluated on separate days. Fruit and vegetable side dishes were evaluated at each meal. Fixed portions of milk and bread were provided at each meal.

RESULTS: Children served themselves more  when using adult-size dishware. Adult-size dishware promoted energy intake indirectly, where every additional calorie served resulted in increased  total energy intakes at lunch. (translation: the kids using larger, adult-sized plates helped themselves to bigger portions and chowed down)

CONCLUSIONS: Children served themselves more with larger plates and bowls and consumed nearly 50% of the calories that they served. This provides new evidence that children’s self-served portion sizes are influenced by size-related facets of their eating environments, which, in turn, may influence children’s energy intake.

Hard to argue with, huh? Looks like among the many factors influencing how much kids eat, the size of the dinnerware you’re using is a significant one. Imagine the possibilities for making use of this information!

When setting the family table, consider what’s on the menu when determining plate size:

Use adult-sized dinner plates for salad and veggie portions, and switch out kid-sized plates for the protein and starch, which are generally higher in fat and total calories.

Try small saucers or mini-bowls for dessert  and high calorie treats (ramekins work well).

Offer small cups for milk and juice, if you offer them at all. Those liquid calories can add up fast.

One of my all-time faves: use a small six-section muffin tin and fill each section with an entree item, side dish (veggies preferred) or greens. Kiddos love the colorful variety and you can balance the nutrition groups as you see fit.

Who knew?? Size really does matter!

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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