The latest dish

Times Staff Writer

IF you’re packing on the pounds, open the kitchen cabinet and take a long, hard look at your china and flatware. Big bowls and big spoons cause people to eat bigger portions of ice cream, a new study has found.

The research, to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reported that doubling the size of bowls increased the amount of ice cream people served themselves by 31%. Offering them a larger ice-cream scoop increased the amount they dished out by 14.5%.

Americans have grown heavier in the last 50 years, a fact that experts often attribute, in part, to ever-larger portion sizes at restaurants. To explore other factors, a team led by Brian Wansink, a researcher at Cornell University, threw an ice-cream social for 85 food and nutrition experts. Guests were given either 17-ounce or 34-ounce bowls, and 2-ounce or 3-ounce serving scoops, and asked to serve themselves.

Nutrition experts judge the size and calorie-counts of their servings better than most Americans, but that did not keep them from heaping on more ice cream when armed with a big bowl or spoon. Indeed, those who received both served themselves fully 56.8% more ice cream than those with small bowls and spoons.


“If you want to eat less, use smaller plates and smaller bowls,” Wansink said. “Four ounces of food on an 8-ounce plate looks like a decent portion. But 4 ounces on a 10-ounce plate looks like hardly a start.”