Skinny Daily Post


Yesterday’s USA Today had a fascinating article on the role of our surroundings on our eating habits. Unfortunately, I can’t find it on their website, so I can’t give you a link.

Did you know – that we eat more in dark surroundings? I had no idea! Those dark intimate corners in restaurants aren’t good for us! So much for romance! However, we can still have a bit of romance, as long as we make sure that the food itself is well-lit. Candles, lights that shine on the food are all good.

But, perhaps the most interesting strategy was to NOT use colors found in food in decorating or plates! No red, green, yellow. The recommendations were cool beiges, tans, blues. Apparently, we eat more when we’re stimulated by food-related color.

I had no idea – did you? But it might help explain a study from the Mayo Clinic from a couple of years ago about the color of plates and the amount of food Alzheimer’s patients ate.

It seems that they ate more when food was served on red plates than on blue, green, or white plates. And based on this, I tried it on the Alzheimer’s mom – and it works! She really does eat best when food is served on a red plate. Furthermore, if there’s a pattern on the plate, she eats next to nothing.

We all know that eating is complex – and we generally focus [OK, obsess!] on portions, timing, composition. How often do we even look at our environments? Quite an eye-opener! I’ll have to be more observant about this. What do you all think?

8 thoughts on “What’s your eating environment?

  1. m.a. says:

    mom eats next to nothing on my fall colored leaf patterned plates. she does wolf down her wendy’s big bacon classic off the white wrapper and eats pretty well out of the red wendy’s chili conainer.

    oh boy. this has given me permission to go buy the white lenox white mix and match stoneware plates at fortunoffs.

    yea right, that may happen.

    hey…some women have a thing for shoes, i have a thing for dishes. i love the way take out looks on a pretty dishes, don’t you?

    figures. oh wait, i am suppose to be doing weight watchers core, right?


  2. Cat says:

    This is some kind of strange. Especially since most food, barring red peppers and strawberries and cherries and tomatoes, isn’t in fact red. My dining room is in fact painted red, but since I virtually never eat there I won’t worry about it. I like to eat in bed or in a soft chair.

    Tangentially related (that is, being about environment and habit): I’ve been doing WW again with the new year (just can’t resist the seasonal spirit), but last night Chef Spouse made beef-and-sausage meatloaf, and baked potatoes to go with the seared kale that would normally have taken up most of my plate. I ate all of it…and had job-related nightmares for the first time since way back in December. It’s clearly, clearly a case of “more gravy than grave,” though I don’t know what the culprit is. Nonfat sour cream? Red meat, all four or five ounces of it? Sheer quantity? Strong flavors? Anybody know of any research about the role of food in disturbing sleep cycles?

  3. Kristi says:

    I think I won’t be using red plates!!!

  4. cindy says:

    Hi Jane,
    Interesting study. When I started all this, I went to the Corelle outlet and bought many different pretty plates (luncheon sized—to learn about portion). Luckily for me, my favorite color is blue. All of them are white, with some variation of blue pattern on the rim—no red, yellow or orange to be found! However, my mother, after heart surgery, decided she’d try my small plate idea and went out to buy some. She is too sophisticated for Corelle, so she bought some pottery ones—bright red! I’ll have to tell her about this report and see if she notices a difference.
    I had heard similar ideas about the stimulation factor of certain colors. It is why fast food places—McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc… are all in various combinations of the colors you mentioned. Knowing this kind of information cannot “fix” our problems, but the more we learn, the more tools we have in our tool box! Every little bit helps—so thanks for the new insight, Jane!

  5. vickie says:

    My kids’ school cafeteria was painted RED in hopes of helping kids eat their lunch (and not just dawdle) a couple years back.

  6. Andrea says:

    I’ve had blue dishes in one form or another since I left home, but it certainly didn’t seem to help me eat less before I started making a concerted effort.

    However, I have adopted the idea of using smaller dishes. It does make me feel like I’m still getting a “full plate” while sticking to smaller portions. I also try to avoid eating in the dark — anything that keeps me from going into mindless eating mode.

  7. Hope says:

    I have all white dishes, and I’m going to watch if I eat more on colored dishes. Now I know why I eat so much on red Xmas china…LOL.

    BTW, Cat, my guaranteed nightmare foods are beef, pizza, and other ‘heavy’ foods. We call them pizza dreams at our house. 🙂

  8. Barbara says:

    I’m a little late to this discussion, but I think this is absolutely fascinating. The red dishes for Valentine’s Day didn’t seem to affect the portion control this year, but it was just one day (and I was having a really, really bad headache). Headaches are good for food control but not promising for getting the workout in.:)

    I’m going to pay attention to this. I had heard about the red and yellow colors and why our fast food restaurants use the colors to draw all of us in, so the information does make sense.

    I think I’ll start looking for some new dishes soon.

    Thanks for the info, Jane.


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