Diners who use big forks eat less: study

July 14, 2011

Researchers have found a new way to control the amount we eat: use a bigger fork. While numerous studies have focused on portion sizes and their influence on how much we eat, researchers Arul and Himanshu Mishra and Tamara Masters looked at how bite sizes affect quantities ingested.

To do this, they conducted field research in a popular Italian restaurant in the southwestern United States.

Two sets of forks were used to tinker with bite size: a larger fork that held 20 percent more than the fork usually used in the restaurant, and a smaller fork that held 20 percent less than the usual utensil.

Over two lunches and two dinners in the restaurant, tables were either "large fork" or "small fork" tables.

Servers, including one of the study's authors, took customers' orders, and weighed the full plate of food that they had ordered before serving it to them.

A small sticky note was attached to the underside of each plate, noting the weight and other information -- just in case the fork and plate were separated when the table was cleared.

At the end of the meal, the plate was brought back to the kitchen and weighed again, and the researchers found that diners who used the bigger fork ate less of their food than those who used the smaller one.

But the big fork, less eaten theory only worked in a restaurant setting. A study conducted in the lab, which also used Italian food, found that people who used big forks actually consumed more.

The researchers, whose findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research, concluded that there are different motivations when we eat in a restaurant or a lab.

Diners went to the restaurant with a "well-defined goal of satiating their hunger, and, because of this well-defined goal, they are willing to invest effort and resources to satiate their ."

In the lab, participants were told they were taking part in a study and did not have that same .

The restaurant diners felt that the small fork gave them "a feeling that they are not making much progress" towards their goal, and this resulted in them eating more of the food on their plate than the large-fork group, the researchers reasoned.

"Grandma's advice tells us to consume small bites, but remember, she also tells us to chew well so that our body has enough time to let us know that we are full," the researchers conclude.

"Given people's busy lives and the growing trend of eating in restaurants, if we are not chewing longer, then consuming from a larger fork may actually be more helpful in controlling overconsumption," they write.

Explore further: Many restaurant staff are undertrained and misinformed about food allergies

Related Stories

Many restaurant staff are undertrained and misinformed about food allergies

April 14, 2011
A new study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy reveals that there is no association between a restaurant worker's knowledge of food allergy and his or her confidence in being able to provide a safe meal to a food ...

Food safety in Canada is lax and needs better oversight, says CMAJ

April 13, 2011
Canada needs better regulation and oversight of food safety to protect Canadians as the current system is lax, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.