Grab This Utensil to Eat Less

Grab This Utensil to Eat Less

No, it's not a single chopstick (although that would certainly work). It's a big fork.

In a recent study done at an Italian restaurant, researchers found that diners who used larger utensils ate less, surprisingly enough. The researchers believe that bigger forks somehow trick people's minds into thinking they've eaten more.

Size matters
Meal sizes have grown over the past few decades, contributing to an obesity epidemic in the United States. In fact, Cornell University researchers recently found amusing proof of portion swelling when they compared the 1936 and the 2006 editions of that homemaking classic, Joy of Cooking. They found that the recipe for chicken gumbo went from 228 calories per serving in the 1936 version to 576 calories in the 2006 edition. Why? The editors simply had to jack up the portion sizes to meet our oversized modern-day appetites. (Here's an easy way to cut 120 calories from your day.)

Forking it over
So it's good to know there may be simple tactics you can take to help retrain your eyes for sensibly sized bites and servings. Such as choosing a bigger fork. This may help with the lag time between actual physical fullness and the moment that feeling is recognized by the brain. Your brain looks to external cues for additional satiety information—like how much food is left on your plate. And in the study, using a bigger fork made bigger, more visible, more obvious dents in the loads of pasta on people's plate. Researchers speculate that may be why people ate less. The visual cues of the big dents made people think they'd eaten more than they actually had. (Find out what to eat for breakfast to kill afternoon cravings.)

Two more paths to a smaller meal
The researchers cautioned that, for now, these results only seemed to apply to big servings on large plates. But here are a couple of other things you can do to reduce overeating, no matter what:

  • Eat slowly. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to pick up satiety signals. So put your fork down between bites and savor your meal.
  • Use a smaller plate. Time and again, researchers find that people given larger plates will eat more. Shrink the plate to shrink the meal. (Watch this 1-minute video guide on portion control.)

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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