DIET | Plates, Cups And Takeaway Containers Shape What (And How) We Eat

Home cooks have been trying out their skills during isolation. But the way food taste depends on more than your ability to follow a recipe.

Our surroundings, the people we share food with and the design of our tableware – our cups, bowls and plates, cutlery and containers – affect the way we experienced food.

For example, eating from a heavier bowl can make you feel food is more filling and tastes better than eating from a lighter one.

Contrast this with fast food, which is most commonly served in lightweight disposable containers, which encourages fast eating, underestimating how much food you’re eating, and has even been linked to becoming impatient.

These are just some examples of the vital, but largely unconscious, relationship between the design of out tableware – including size, shape, weight and color – and how we eat.

In design, this relationship is referred to as an object’s ‘affordances’. Affordances guide interactions between objects and people.

As Australian sociologist Jenny Davis writes, affordances: ‘…push, pull, enable, and constrain. Affordances are how objects shape behavior for socially situated subjects’.

Designed objects don’t make us do things.

The Color Of Your Crockery

When you visit a restaurant, the chances are your dinner will be served on a plain white plate.

But French chef Sebastien Lepinoy has staff paint the plates to match the daily menu and ‘entice the appetite’.

Research seems to back him up. Colored plates can enhance flavors to actually change the dining experience.

In one study, salted popcorn eaten from a colored bowl tasted sweeter than popcorn eaten from a white bowl. In another, a café latte served in a colored mug tasted sweeter than one in a white mug.

The association between color and taste seems to apply to people from Germany to China.

A review of multiple studies conducted in many countries over 30 years finds people constantly associated particular colors with specific tastes.

Red, orange or pink is most often associated with sweetness, black with bitterness, yellow or green with sourness, and white and blue with saltiness.

The Size Of Your Plate

The influence of plate size on meal portions depends on the dining experience and whether you are serving yourself. In a buffet, for example, people armed with a small plate may eat more because they can go back for multiple helping.

Nonetheless, average plate and portion sizes have increased over the years. Back in her day, grandma used to serve meals on plates 25 cm in diameter. Now, the average dinner plate is 28 cm, and many restaurant dinner plates have expanded to 30cm.

Our waistlines have also expanded. Research confirms we tend to eat more calories when our plates are larger, because  a large capacity plate affords a greater portion size.

Plastic Is Too Often Ignored

The pace of our busy lives has led many people to rely on those handy takeaways in disposable plastic food containers just ready to pop into microwave. And it’s tempting to use plastic cutlery and cups at barbecues, picnics and kids’ birthday parties.

In contrast to heavy, fragile ceramic tableware, plastic tableware is designed to be ignored. It is so lightweight, ubiquitous and cheap we don’t notice it and pay little mind to its disposal.

Plastics have also changed how eat and drink. An aversion to the strong smell of plastic containers that once might have caused people to wrap their sandwiches before placing them in Tupperware seems to have disappeared. We drink hot coffee though plastic lids.

Australian economic sociologist Gay Hawkins and her colleagues argue lightweight, plastic water bottles have created entirely new habits, such as ‘constant sipping’ on the go. New products are then designed to fit and reinforce this habit.

Aesthetics Matter

Healthy eating is not only characterized by what we eat but how we eat.

For instance, eating mindfully – more thoughtfully and slowly by focusing on the experience of eating – can help you feel full faster and make a difference to how we eat.

And the Japanese cuisine Kaiseki values this mindful, slower approach to eating. It consists of small portions of beautifully arranged food presented in a grouping of small, attractive, individual plates and bowls.

This encourages the diner to eat more slowly and mindfully while appreciating not only the food but the variety and setting of the tableware.

Japanese people’s slower eating practices even apply to ‘fast food’.

One study found Japanese people were more likely to eat in groups, to stay at fast food restaurants for longer and to share fast food, compared with their North American  counterparts. Affordance theory is only now starting to account for cultural diversity in the ways in which designed objects shape practices and experiences.

The studies we have reviewed show tableware influence how we eat. Size, shape, weight, color and aesthetics all play a part in our experience of eating.

This has wide implications for how we design for healthier eating – whether that’s to encourage eating well when we are out and about, or so we can better appreciate a tastier, healthier and more convivial meal at home.


Spain Lauds Queen Letizia’s Modernizing Role As She Turns 50

PARIS, France – Spain’s Queen Letizia turned 50 on Thursday. It’s only a birthday but Spain is taking the opportunity to assess its scarred monarchy and ponder how the arrival of a middle-class commoner may help shake up one of Europe’s most storied royal dynasties into a modern and more palatable institution. Divorced and a … Continue reading Spain Lauds Queen Letizia’s Modernizing Role As She Turns 50

‘Important Work Can’t Wait For Tomorrow’: Meghan’s First UK Speech Since Royal Departure

LONDON – The Duchess of Sussex made her first public address in the UK yesterday since stepping down as a senior royal in 2020. Meghan addressed audience at the opening ceremony for One Young World in Manchester, where young leaders from more than 190 countries were present to listen to a number of notable figures … Continue reading ‘Important Work Can’t Wait For Tomorrow’: Meghan’s First UK Speech Since Royal Departure

Your Taste Preferences Could Be Down To Your Genes, A New Study Reveals

Olives, chilies, anchovies, tofu, sushi, liquorice, blue cheese, mushrooms and mayonnaise. Are you a fan of all these foods? It would be very surprising if you were. But why do people love certain foods and turn their noses up at others? A new study reveals that the reason is not just to do with people’s … Continue reading Your Taste Preferences Could Be Down To Your Genes, A New Study Reveals

Prince William And Kate’s Children To Start New School Near Windsor

LONDON – The three young children of Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate are to start at a new school next month, his office announced on Monday, as the family prepare to move to a new home on his grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle estate. Prince George and Louis, aged 9 and 4, and … Continue reading Prince William And Kate’s Children To Start New School Near Windsor

3 Surprising Bad Things That Can Happen If You Eat Many Nuts

PARIS, France – You already know nuts are incredibly healthy. The crunchy snack is associated with better heart health, lower cholesterol, and even weight loss. ‘The benefits of nuts definitely outweigh any other drawbacks or cons’, says Jerlyn Jones, R.D.N., L.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of The Lifestyle Dietitian. … Continue reading 3 Surprising Bad Things That Can Happen If You Eat Many Nuts

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s