‘GMA’ Diet Behavior Lab: Is Plate Color Key to Weight Loss?

By ABC News

Dec 2, 2011 10:55am

If you’re looking to shed some weight, forget fad diets. The solution may be as simple as changing what plates you’re using.

New research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research this week, suggested that the color of your plate matters when it comes to how much you eat at a meal. Studies found that it’s the contrast between the colors of foods to the plate that really makes a difference.

We wanted to put this theory to test so “Good Morning America” and ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser went to the Italian restaurant Maruzzella in New York City and set up our own little experiment.

Ten unsuspecting diners were invited in for a free lunch of pasta with marinara sauce.  Half were given white plates and half red plates to see if people put more pasta with red sauce on the red plates or more on the white plates.

Remember, it’s all based on an optical illusion. The theory goes, less color contrast between the food and the plate, people eat more. More color contrast between food and the plate color, people eat less.

In our experiment we’d expect that when you put pasta with red sauce on a white plate, there’s a noticeable contrast, so you can see what you’re eating more easily and eat less. When the plate is the same color as the food, like our marinara sauce on a red plate, there’s less contrast and people would take more food.

We had our diners fill their plates for someone else at the table. Before everyone dug in, we weighed each plate to see which color plates had more food.

Would they put more pasta on red plates than on white plates?

Watch the clip to find out.

It turns out people with red plates took an average of 2 ounces more than the people with white plates. It might not seem like a lot, but it can add up over time.  For this meal, that’s about 200 calories, which adds up to about two pounds a month! That’s 24 pounds a year.

Obviously you can’t have different dishes for everything you cook. Dr. Besser recommends white plates as an all-around pick. Two colors you probably want to stay away from are red and gold since these are colors show up in a lot of foods.

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