Watch Your Mouth: Eat Lightly and Carry a Big Fork How Big Forks and Heavy Bowls Help You Eat Less

Bigger forks and heavier bowls might sound supersized, but they could actually cut down on portion sizes.

Between the opening nights of All About Eve and Mean Girls, an average moviegoer’s portion of popcorn increased sevenfold. Starbucks' gut-busting Trenta is more than double the size of its original tall paper cup. The surface area of an average dinner plate is as much as 36 percent larger than it was in 1960. Even some recipes in the most recent edition of The Joy of Cooking, the staple of middle-class kitchens everywhere, expanded 42 percent from their 1931 versions.

And as food portions have increased in size, so have Americans. The connection might seem obvious. But new research into the psychology of eating suggests that in some cases, more can actually mean less.

For one forthcoming study in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from the University of Utah invited 60 undergrads to sit down at a popular Italian restaurant and order a meal. Over two days—two lunches and two dinners—the grub arrived with some custom cutlery. Researchers swapped in forks that were either 20 percent smaller or 20 percent larger than your standard utensil. After weighing each dish before and after the meal, they found that students wielding the bigger forks ate less than those eating off the smaller ones.

Why would petite utensils convince some kids in Utah to bite off more than they can chew? Here's one theory: When eating with a small fork, each forkful hardly makes a dent in the dish. But with bigger forks, each bite marks measurable progress in the consumption of the meal. If the researchers are right, fork size could be the quickest dietary fix since chewing. "[I]f we are not chewing longer," they write, "then consuming from a larger fork may actually be more helpful in controlling overconsumption."

When it comes to evaluating how much food to eat, we're more likely to rely on our eyes than our stomachs. As Cornell professor Brian Wansink writes in Mindless Eating, visual cues (a half-glass of juice or a full bowl of soup) have a greater effect on our eating habits than the physiological feeling of fullness. That's why the drink served in a short, wide glass seems less filling than the drink poured into a tall, slender one, even when the two glasses contain the same amount of liquid. As we drink up, we're evaluating the glass’s perceived contents, not the sensation of liquid sloshing around in our stomachs.

Size matters, but so does heft. In another forthcoming study in Food Quality and Preference, neuroscience researcher Charles Spence and his colleagues asked 50 volunteers to hold bowls of Greek yogurt, then eat it. The volunteers rated their perceptions of the yogurt’s flavor, density, and price. Spence found that those holding heavier bowls considered the yogurt “weightier”—both denser and more expensive—than those holding lighter bowls. Spence writes:

Interestingly, both of the attributes that were most affected by weight (perceived density and price) are related in society with weight properties: people commonly describe very dense foods as being “filling” or “heavy” and heavy perfume bottles as being expensive and/or of higher quality.


So eating out of a Styrofoam container with a plastic fork could make a chicken dinner feel lighter, while eating fast food fries from a weighty bowl could make the fries seem heavier—and classier, too.

These subtle nudges away from supersized portions may be a lot easier to stomach than consciously down-shifting our diets. Just a few tweaks in the tableware—serving up smaller, heavier, plates and larger forks—could help us eat better without even thinking about it. And really, who has time to think and eat?

Look out for Watch Your Mouth, GOOD's food column, every Monday.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user Ken Wilcox.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

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