Lose Weight by Eating Off a Red Plate

Red-Plate-Weight-LossIf you’re like most people you probably associate certain colors with certain things or even feelings. People who love the colour blue will often tell you it’s because it makes them feel peaceful and sleepy. That’s because blue is what is known as a “cool” colour. Red, on the other hand, is what is known as a “warm” colour. This colour along with its close ally, orange, evoke feelings of happiness, energy and optimism. The colour red is also known to help decrease a person’s appetite so if you’ve reached a dieting plateau try switching out your dinnerware for some red plate.

I actually experienced this phenomenon first-hand two years back. I had just purchased a set of 24 dinner plates in a Christmas theme on which I was planning to serve my annual Christmas dinner for my large, extended family. These plates are red with small white snowflakes across them. I got them on a fabulous sale at Target. I have a gigantic family and I always serve them a wonderful sit-down dinner at Christmastime. So, out came my credit card and fifteen minutes later, I walked out the door with my purchase.

Over the next few days I started to cook my usual meal: turkey, stuffing, marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, some ham, some green bean casserole…. the usual suspects that I serve up every year at Christmas. I know how to feed an army of people. So, I was quite surprised when that year’s meal ended and I suddenly had a TON of leftovers and I mean a TON! “What happened?” I wondered. I went back to all my pots and tested to see if the meal had just not tasted good. No, it seemed like it was fine. I remembered seeing all the smiling,  happy faces around the table. No one complained about the food but they certainly were not eating the way they normally did. I was very perplexed.

When it happened again the next year, I was ready for it. I stopped meal in mid-forkful and asked them if something was wrong, why they weren’t eating like they always had. “No, the food is great! they said! “Just not so hungry this year,” my mother said. Hmmm. I needed to do some investigating. As far as I knew, the only thing I had changed was my dinnerware. I had not made any changes to any of my recipes, not a single one. So, it had to have something to do with the dinnerware.

In the course of my research I learned that scientists had recently published a scientific study in the journal Appetite in which they discussed the results of having some 240 participants who ate snacks which consisted of popcorn and chocolate chips. These snacks were served consecutively on red, blue and white plates. The scientists discovered that when the participants were eating off the red plates, they ate considerably less than they did when they ate off the plates of other colours.

The next task was to find out why. They eventually concluded that using a colour which contrasted sharply between the food that was being eaten and the dishes on which they were served helped the participants be more mindful of what they were eating with each bite. They also concluded that something else might have been in the works as well. That is that most people associated the colour red with stopping or danger of some sort. So serving food on red dinnerware would subconsciously signal to the eater that they should eat less of the food served on any red dishes. The big caveat is that they did not tell their participants what they were testing for. So, the participants’ reactions to the food on the red plates was entirely subconscious. They were not sure that someone who intentionally switched their dinnerware to the colour red would have the same effect because then it would be a conscious choice.

color-affects-eating-habitsIn a contrary study carried out at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, scientists there discovered that it was not so much the amount of food their study participants ate but rather the colour-contrast between their dinner plate and the food they were served that made the most difference. They were very surprised to learn that people eat more when their food blends in with the colour of the plate on which they have been served. Another study called the Plate Size and Colour Suggestibility study found a similar result, that people subconsciously eat more when their food blends into the colour of the crockery upon which it’s been served.

They discovered this by conducting a study in which 60 people were invited to a buffet where they were served Fettuccine Alfredo or Pasta with a red tomato sauce. Each of the participants were randomly provided with a plate that was either red or white and then asked to help themselves to some dinner.  Once they had served themselves, their portion size was measured.

The scientists were surprised to learn that those who had chosen Alfredo pasta for their white plates consumed between 17 and 22% more than those who had eaten the pasta with red tomato sauce on a red plate.

They concluded that the plates which held the food of contrasting colour sent a wake-up call to the participant’s brains which made them subconsciously more aware of the portion size they were about to eat.

So, if you want to keep the pounds from piling on over the Christmas holidays be mindful of your portion sizes and only have a small helping of the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes.

Here is another interesting study: Does Color of Food Affect Taste?

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