Americans Really Want Half-Sized, Not Super-Sized Meals
American culture of super-sized fast foods has led many households down a slippery slope of bulging waistlines and ill health; no age group is spared the campaign for giant servings of food. As it turns out, scientists are finding that families would rather eat half-sized meals rather than oversized, if it meant maintaining their weight and health, even when the cost made no economic sense.
In a series of experiments conducted at a popular Chinese franchise, hosted at Duke University campus, unusual changes in behavior emerged. Each customer was asked a simple question while ordering side dishes: “would you like a half order to save 200 calories?” As much as 33 percent of a widely-mixed group of customers said yes to half-sizing, even when the discount of 25-cents was thrown in to spur on takers.
The psychology research led by Janet Schwartz, marketing professor at Tulane University, along with Dan Ariely, behavioral economist at Duke University, revealed that people want to be asked what portion sizes they want, instead of fast foods shoveling large default sizes into their plates. The figures represent a significant amount of patrons who were satisfied with eating half-sized or call it normal-sized meals.
Coming out of this research are take-away guidelines, good for families dining out or in to help trim portions:
Guideline 1: Color Contrast
A dark colored plate is ideal for “white” starchy meals because it ”makes you think twice before you throw on another scoop.” Brian Wansink , author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, says his own family buys dark dinner plates to compensate for white ones because people tend to overeat white starches than veggies.
Guideline 2: Smaller Plate Size
Switching from an 11 inch plate to a 10 inch plate makes a normal serving look satisfying and makes people take less food.
Guideline 3: Tall, Skinny Glass Size
People think they are drinking more from a tall, skinny glass than a short, wide one. This finding is widely adopted by bars.
Guideline 4: Avoid Adult Bowls for Kids
Beware if kids eat from the adult bowls. In the findings, “6 year olds serve themselves 44 percent more food in an 18 ounce bowl than a 12 ounce bowl.
If this trend catches on with restaurateurs, soon consumer demand will dictate the real size that people want thereby, reducing waistlines and preserving family health. A report of this research will appear in this month’s journal: Health Affairs.