One of the areas Brian Wansink explores in his book Mindless Eating (Why We Eat More Than We Think) is what he calls the tablescape. He looks at all the ways in which we are purposely fooled to eat more by the food industry and the less obvious ways we are fooled by our own brains.
In this chapter I was particularly interested to read about the effect of the choices we make in relation to what we serve our food in. Research has estimated that 72% of our calories come from food we eat from bowls, plates and glasses. These containers can create persuasive visual illusions that cause us to misjudge the amount of food they contain and therefore how much we eat.
In one experiment described in the book industry experts in nutrition were filmed whilst they were at what they thought was an end of conference wrap party. They were handed either 17 ounce bowls or 34 ounce bowls and invited to help themselves to ice cream. As Wansink points out himself, you would think these ‘experts’ would know better but low and behold by the end of the experiment it was found that those using the bigger bowls ate on average 57% more ice cream!
If I translate this lesson into my life it makes me think of servings of cereal, pasta and rice. How many of you out there grab a bowl and estimate how much to eat or cook? This is a lesson I’ve already learned and know to be true, if you estimate you will get it wildly wrong and will be consuming way more calories than you think.
Take one of my favourite breakfasts, Muesli. In the past I would grab my cereal bowl, yes the white one in the picture below and pour. I would keep pouring until my brain said the bowl had a portion in it, i.e you couldn’t see the bottom of the bowl.
It was only when I read what a serving should actually be that I realised I was eating at least twice the recommended amount. So I tried some brain trickery and weighed out a 45g serving and placed it in a much smaller bowl. It’s hard to see clearly on this picture but believe me it looks much fuller.
Finally I got into the habit of weighing out the correct portions and keeping them in Ziploc bags. Not only does it save time of a morning but it also avoids getting too tip heavy with the packet! I was happy to read that this is exactly what Brian Wansink went onto recommend, a) Mini Size your bowls and b) Ziploc your portions.
Give it a try, your waist will thank you for it!