According to an old Vermont adage, when you see a fork in the road, you should take it. This was good advice in Robert Frost‘s day; it is good nutritional counsel today. A recent study of restaurant diners showed that using bigger forks can help you avoid over eating.

The reason for this is pretty cool: people who eat in restaurants usually have a well-defined goal of assuaging their hunger. This means they are more willing to invest the effort to meet their goal: they pay attention to food selection, they are nice to the waiter, they use their napkins, they pay the bill, etc. The big fork gives them a clear way to monitor progress toward that goal.

According to Health Day News: “The physiological feedback of feeling full, or the satiation signal, comes with a time lag. In its absence, diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress.” Smaller forks show smaller progress…it takes more bites to reach the goal of feeling full. Also, restaurant diners often do not allow for that time lag.

The research team put their conclusion to the test by varying the portions of food. They found that when served larger portions, diners with small forks ate significantly more than those with larger forks. In contrast, when customers were served smaller portions, the size of their fork did not affect the amount of food they ate. (www.emaxhealth.com quoting the Journal of Consumer Research)

This study was conducted in a restaurant setting, but the same principles may be a applied at home – provided we have the same goal of hunger satiation (sometimes we eat for different reasons at home).

If you don’t feel full, it is very important to learn your visual cues which trigger over eating (I am reminded of the ‘Clean Plate Club’ of my youth). But even more important than fork size or visual cues is mindful eating. Understand the reason why you eat what you eat. Understand your hunger cues and know how much food it takes to fill you up. It’s probably less than you think…

And it will make all the difference.

Image credit: seasweetie.wordpress.com