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Supersized portions help to make supersized people, according to research by U.S. food psychologist Brian Wansink at Cornell University.

Most of us are blissfully unaware that the size of our plate, spoon, cup, or food packaging is a powerful persuader to consume more calories. While we all think we are too smart to be tricked in this way, studies show that people tend to eat 30 to 50 percent more from larger-sized restaurant portions and they serve themselves 20 to 40 percent more from larger-sized packages. The observation that this type of portion distortion occurs has also been made on children as young as three years of age!

Larger plates make you eat more food

A study of moviegoers who had just finished lunch and were given free buckets of stale popcorn found that those who received large buckets ate 51 percent more than people given medium buckets.

Even food and nutrition experts can be deceived. At an ice cream social, nutrition science students and their professors given large ice cream dishes served themselves 31 percent more, while those given large dishes and large scoops dished up 53 percent more compared to guests supplied with small bowls and small scoops.

7 ways to minimize overeating cues

  • Buy smaller or individual packets of food—jumbo is not always the best, unless you can use it up over time!
  • Take stock of your everyday plates and serving spoons and downsize if necessary.
  • Only prepare the amount of food you need if leftovers are tempting.
  • If you have leftovers, pack them immediately for lunch the next day.
  • When you decide to cook dinner in bulk, freeze the remainder in individual or family sized containers to prevent going back for seconds.
  • If you eat out regularly, share your main meal with a friend or order an entrée.
  • Say No to supersizing and large-value meal deals

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve well-being. See for more nutrition information.

Food Matters: Mind Your Portions

by Sue Radd
From the June 2009 Signs