Study: Bigger forks stop diners from ‘pigging out’

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When it comes to the battle of the bulge, new research shows simply using a bigger fork stopped restaurant diners from 'pigging out'. Using a bigger fork helped diners eat less in an experiment.

According a July 14. 2011 news release, putting a bigger bite of food on your fork leads to less eating from important visual cues that otherwise seemed to be overlooked by food consumers.

The finding, which appears in the Journal of Consumer Research, is an interesting note for women who may not find a big fork so delicate.

But for weight loss, a bigger fork gives visual cues that could help with setting goals.

The study authors, from University of Utah, Salt Lake City, write:
"The fork size provided the diners with a means to observe their goal progress. The physiological feedback of feeling full or the satiation signal comes with a time lag. In its absence diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress."

Why using a bigger fork to eat less makes sense

Past studies have shown dieters are often unaware of visual cues that can influence higher food consumption. Examples include using smaller plates and just putting calorie laden foods out of sight.

The current study looked at individuals eating in a restaurant. When diners had a full plate of food and a small fork, they ate more than those with large forks.

According to the authors,”… it is very important to understand how small versus large bite sizes in a meal would influence the overall quantity of food consumed.”

But when serving sizes were small, fork size had no impact on the amount of food consumed in the experiment.

In the lab, fork size had no impact on food consumption. The authors suspect the reason is the goal of satisfying hunger when eating in a restaurant may have differed from the lab study participants.

Eating too much all boils down to paying attention to hunger cues, say the authors. “Mindful eating” has received much attention as a way to lose weight and help curb the obesity epidemic.

The study, according to the authors, is proof that it’s hard for people to know how much food they’re eating. "They allow external cues, such as fork size, to determine the amount they should consume."

Hint: When dining out, the big fork is the one next to the dinner plate. Keep it for dessert. Try it and see if you eat less food. The new study suggests it works.

"Journal of Consumer Research; The Influence of Bite Size on Quantity of Food Consumed: A Field Study"; Arul Mishr, et al.; July 13 2011