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Keywords:

  • appetite;
  • estimation;
  • food intake;
  • perception;
  • plate size;
  • portion size

Abstract

Background

Evidences have suggested that larger utensils may provoke ‘size-contrast illusions’, influencing the perceived volume and food consumption.

Objective

To analyse the influence of plate size on the visual estimate of food portion size.

Methods

Two 400 g portions of pasta with tomato sauce were presented on two plates of different diameters (24.0 and 9.0 cm). Each participant visually estimated on an individual basis the quantities of the pasta portions (g) present on each plate. In addition, each subject classified the size of the portions on each plate as ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’. The mean estimates of the amount of pasta on each plate were compared by the nonparametric Mann–Whitney. The differences in the frequencies of portion classifications between plates were evaluated by the chi-squared test.

Results

Forty-eight students (average 25.8 ± 8.9 years) participated in the study. There was no difference in the median amount of pasta estimated for the large and small plates (150 g; range 50–500 and 115 g; range 40–500 g, respectively). The classification of the portion size as ‘large’ was reported by a significantly greater number of persons when they evaluated the amount of pasta arranged on the large plate compared to the small plate (47.9 versus 22.9%, respectively; P = 0.018).

Conclusion

The size of the plate did not influence the estimate of food portions, even though it did influence the classification of portion size.