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Restaurant Diners Using Small Forks Ate 56% More

As previously reported, the amount we eat at restaurants can be affected by all sorts of factors — the size and color of the plates, the shape of drinking glasses, the lighting, and even the background music. Now, intriguing new research suggests the size of your fork may influence how much you eat — and strangely enough, it’s bigger forks which might limit calories consumed!

University of Utah conducted a field study in a popular Italian restaurant, in which 98 university students of both genders were provided a pre-weighed plate of food of their choosing off the menu. Some students were given a large fork (which fully loaded held 20% more food by weight), while others were supplied a smaller fork. After they had “finished” eating, the plates were taken away to be weighed once more. The results: big fork diners left 179% more food on their plates! In other words, they ate 44% less weight than their small-fork counterparts. Why might this be? Researchers speculate that since it takes a while for the brain to get the signal that we’ve eaten enough, restaurant diners rely on other visual cues. Bigger forkfuls subliminally suggest diners are making more progress toward appeasing their appetite, thus moderating the pace of eating.

But before breaking out the pitchfork in an effort to drop pounds, try tuning in to your actual satiety through mindful eating so you’re less reliant (and thus less vulnerable) to outside influences, which can be manipulated to get you to buy more food. Practical tips include using chopsticks, chewing (and thus fully tasting) rather than gulping food and turning off the tube at mealtime.

Published September 1, 2011

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