Researchers from Cornell University found that people tend to indulge in more generous helpings when the food they eat is of the same colour as the crockery on which it is placed.
The researchers conducted repeated experiments on groups of 60 participants, and found that the actual colour of the food and plates made no difference; what mattered was the contrast between the two.
In the study, people were given either a red or a white dinner plate and led to one of two buffet tables offering pasta; one in tomato sauce, the other in cream sauce.
The researchers found that Those given crockery which “matched” their food – red for tomato sauce, or white for cream sauce, gave themselves helpings between 17 and 22% larger than those with plates of contrasting colour.
Study authors said that the colour contrast appears to act as a “stop sign” reminding people to think about how much food they were serving.
“People will generally serve themselves far more on a large dinner plate than they would on a smaller one, because the eye is tricked. It seems that colour contrast is one way to block this illusion”, Brian Wansink, Professor and head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, said.
The researcher also said those trying to lose weight could help themselves by buying brightly coloured or dark plates, to provide contrast with common white foodstuffs such as pasta, rice and potatoes. He also added that green plates could be used to trick children into eating more vegetables.