Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bigger Forks Lead to Less Eating in Restaurants: Study

Conventional wisdom and nutrition professionals alike tell us that the more difficult it is to eat something, the less of it you will consume. For that reason, it is usually advised that we eat from smaller plates using smaller cutlery. In so doing, we are forced to eat more slowly but we also give our brains and stomachs more time and a better chance to communicate, letting us know when we are full and should stop eating. Strangely, however, new research suggests that at restaurants, maybe bigger is better after all, at least when it comes to forks.

According to marketing researchers from the University of Utah, a larger fork size gives diners a visual cue to know how much progress they're making in their meal. Since a larger fork means the food could be consumed more quickly (more food gone with each fork full), consumers slow down their eating and end up actually eating less than those who use smaller forks. However, when the experiment was repeated in the lab, the results were reversed; bigger forks meant that more food was consumed.

The researchers explain this peculiarity by saying that in dining out a restaurant, many people are in a hurry to get back to work or they are on their way to get somewhere, so a larger fork is used more as a time cue to help them eat as much as time allows them to. On the contrary, in the lab, at home, or when time isn't an issue, people eat to satisfy their hunger or appetite. In this case, slowing down eating is beneficial, and a smaller fork would aid in that task.

Regardless, since there is more evidence to support the small fork (or spoon) suggestion as it pertains to satisfying hunger, appetite and managing one's weight, I feel it's best to stick to that option!