Weight loss habit #20: Plating

How to do it:

Prepare plates in the kitchen and bring them to the table, restaurant style.


Why do it:

Plating makes portion control easier and more accurate.

People tend to underestimate how much they eat. Even if you know what a reasonable serving should look like—and a lot of people don’t—it’s easy for portion size to snowball. When I plate meals in the kitchen, I find it helpful to use measuring cups or a kitchen scale to guard against calorie creep.


Plating cuts down on decision-making and conserves willpower.

I grew up with “family style” meals. Everything went into serving bowls, from which we helped ourselves. We got into the habit of taking a second helping of this, a bit more of that, another spoonful of this. All those extras can add up. In a recent study of 230 households, people who served themselves from the kitchen counter or the stove were found to eat, on average, about 19% less than those who used the family style approach.


When a meal is attractively plated, it looks and tastes better.

The first time I encountered “plating” was on one of those Food Network shows. In the last few seconds of a cooking competition, the participating chefs would frantically arrange their creations on small plates, drizzling on “finishing sauces” and adding garnishes fashioned from marzipan and seaweed. The results were impressive, particularly when you consider the challenge of making an edible entrée from ingredients such as liverwurst, cactus, and giant blue gummy worms.

While I didn’t understand the appeal of this show, I did learn a few things about the power of presentation. “The boar chop is still raw, and serving it on a bed of crumbled PopTarts seems a little…. pedestrian,” one of the judges would complain, “but since this dish looks better than anyone else’s, you win!”


As an added bonus, there no serving dishes to wash, which means everyone wins.




Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. Brian Wansink, Ph.D. William Morrow, NY. 2014