Can a High Color Contrast Help You Eat Less?

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Can a high color contrast encourage you to eat less?Can a high color contrast encourage you to eat less?In a fascinating new study, Cornell University researchers found that a greater contrast between the color of your food and the color of your plate may naturally lead to eating less.

In the study, partygoers served themselves from a pasta buffet with either tomato or Alfredo sauce . They were randomly given red or white plates, so some ate red sauce on a red plate, while others ate red sauce on a white plate, white sauce on a red plate, and white sauce on a white plate. Those who ate pasta with red sauce on a red plate, as well as those who ate pasta with white sauce on a white plate served themselves 22 percent more than those with the opposite pairings. While it's not clear why the color disparity made such a big difference, it could be another strategy to put to the test, especially throughout the holiday season.

A few more research-based tactics that tend to naturally curb overeating include:

1. Stick a spoon into a bowl of m&ms, gum drops, or other candy. You'll be more likely to use the spoon and take the portion it fills, rather than a much larger handful.

2. Cut treats like brownies and cheesecake into smaller squares, and serve mini versions of appetizers. The same amount of food chopped into smaller pieces looks like more volume, which may trigger your brain to say "stop" sooner. Plus, the more times you bring your hand to your mouth, the more satisfied you'll feel.

3. Cover up. Research shows that the amount of effort it takes you to obtain food and how visible it is greatly impacts how much you'll eat. One study found that people given a sandwich in transparent wrap ate more than those given sandwiches in opaque wrap.

What's your take? Do you think that techniques like these help you eat less without trying? Have you ever noticed how color combos impact your appetite? Please share your thoughts or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!

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