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This week I received a shipment in the mail from my husband’s aunt. After unwrapping four cartons of seemingly endless mounds of paper, I found the most beautiful set of his great-great grandmother’s China. Carefully laying the pieces out on my dining room table, I searched for the dinner plates which seemed to be missing. And then it hit me…the plates that I thought were salad plates were the dinner plates. My, how times have changed!

This particular set of China was made in 1931 when dinner plates were 7-9 inches in diameter: just enough room for a small amount of protein (lean meat, chicken, or fish), a starch, and some veggies.  Today the average size of a dinner plate is 10-12 inches across and looks more like a serving platter than a single dish.  A 16 ounce steak or ½ of a chicken can fit perfectly on a plate of this magnitude, and in most restaurants, (unless it’s a very expensive restaurant) that’s the amount you’ll receive. Add to that, a basket of bread and a soup bowl the size of a swimming pool and you’re talking about and invitation to overeat!

According to Professor Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and  executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion,  “When people change from a 10 inch plate to a 12 inch plate, their intake increases by 28%.” Yet when challenged to downside and use 10 inch plates for 1 month, Wansink found, “people not only ate less, but they also ate better.” Filled with motivational aphorisms, like “One small plate – One large step,” and “Change the plate first – Change the habits later,” his websitewww.smallplatemovement.org will help you understand the relationship between your plate size and your waist size through articles, videos, and an invitation to join the challenge for one month.

Maybe it’s time to let those pieces of porcelain guide us at the table. As Wansink would agree, “Our plates can control calories better than we can.” Too many of us joined the ‘Clean Plate Club,’ finishing every morsel on whatever plate size is provided, but it’s time to cancel your membership!

Tune in for future blogs where I’ll talk more about surprising reasons why we choose the foods we eat and see which habits you can relate to the most.