Eat with a big fork to downsize your diet?

By Shayna Brouker • Published: October 4th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Fall is upon us, and with it, a bounty of delicious comfort foods made from harvest fare like pumpkin pie, macaroni and cheese, baked squash and apple cider. When the temperature drops and appetites increase, every effort to keep extra calories from widening your waist counts, from moving more to perhaps even changing the size of your fork … really.

Past studies have found that portions shrink when serving dishes are smaller, but could the same be true with utensils? Researchers from the University of Utah at Salt Lake City set out to test this theory by teaming up with a local Italian restaurant, where dishes — and portion sizes — can be notoriously naughty. They randomly chose tables to dine with forks that were either 20 percent larger than normal or 20 percent smaller. They then recorded the weight of each plate before and after customers ate.

The results, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the bigger the fork, the less food diners ate — and vice versa. When customers were served a lot of food, those with small forks devoured much more of their dish than those with large forks. It seemed that using a smaller fork made eaters dig in more to make sure they were getting the most out of their meal. When they were given smaller servings, the size of the fork made no difference.

But don’t go ordering that set of giant-sized forks just yet. In a lab experiment, participants with undersized utensils ate less than those with large forks. The scientists believe diners at restaurants rely on external cues like how much of their plate is empty, rather than true internal cues, like how full they feel.

So to cancel your membership of the “clean plate club” and avoid overeating, listen to your body and stop eating when you’re about 80 percent full. Bag the rest for seconds tomorrow, and your belly will thank you.