I recently noticed that my son-in-law had lost the “baby weight” he’d put on a few years ago when my daughter was pregnant and regained his sleek rock musician physique. So when I saw him serving his own meals on the salad-size plates used by their nine-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, I suspected there might be a connection. Sure enough, he told me he was on the “small plate diet” and had lost 15 pounds. (Full disclosure – he also started working out at his local gym.)
The Small Plate Movement, as its proponents prefer to call it, was launched in 2008 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. It’s a collaborative effort by representatives of academia, government, media, and industry and includes two initiatives, one aimed at families, the other at restaurants. The underlying premise is simple: The standard diameter of our dinner plates has crept up to a baronial 12”, making servings that look generous on plates of more modest proportions seem downright stingy. If we downsize our plates to 10”, we tend to serve ourselves and eat around 20% fewer calories – a reduction most people can tolerate without even noticing, much less experiencing serious hunger pangs.
Another way you can use your plate to facilitate portion control, and at the same time promote nutritional balance, is to visualize that plate as a “pie” divided into 4 quarters. Reserve one of the four slices for protein (e.g., meat, beans, tofu), one for carbs (pasta, rice, potatoes), and the remaining two for veggies – say, a garden salad and a serving of broccoli or peas. To be true to the spirit of the thing, no heaping helpings and no overlapping!
This is all good news for anyone who struggles with her weight, but especially for someone who recently stopped smoking and could use a few simple tricks for managing the extra pounds that typically accompany quitting. Whoever thought the humble dinner plate could be such a good friend to former smokers?
Cynthia S. Pomerleau, Ph.D., is currently research professor emerita in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry. From 1985 to 2009 she served as director of the Nicotine Research Laboratory, where much of her research focused on the impact of smoking on women. She is the author of more than a hundred articles and book chapters on smoking and a contributor to the 2001 Surgeon General’s Report on Women and Smoking.