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Do adults draw differently-sized meals on larger or smaller plates? Examining plate size in a community sample

Sharp, David, Sobal, Jeffery, Wethington, Elaine
Food quality and preference 2019 v.74 pp. 72-77
adults, dinner, meat, men, parents, portion size, women, United States
Prior research has reported that plate size may influence an individual’s perceptions and recall of food and meal size. Therefore, manipulating plate size could influence projected meal quantities and portion size among community dwelling adults.The present study interviewed 281 adult parents in their own homes in a medium-sized city in the United States. Participants were asked to accurately draw and label the foods they expected to eat for dinner that night, drawing on either a 23 cm or 28 cm paper plate. The respondents were then asked to label each food drawn in order to ensure proper recording of meals.Results showed clear differences in drawn food sizes between plate sizes as well as between sexes. Larger plates had about 24% more food drawn on them than small plates. Men drew their meals on 28 cm plates to be 37% larger than men who received 23 cm plates, while women with 28 cm plates drew their meals to be about 17% larger than women given 23 cm plates. Most (60%) of the overall differences in food size between plates came from the biggest food that was drawn. Women and men both drew bigger meat portions on 28 cm plates when compared to the meat portions on 23 cm plates.Overall, these findings support the concept that adult participants’ estimates of dinner meal size may be shaped by plate size. The effect of differing plate sizes appears to be more powerful for men than women, and may encourage greater food consumption among men, primarily as meat products.