I am fascinated by the science of eating behaviors—the kind of research that shows you drink more when you have a short, wide glass over a narrow, tall one. Or that the closer you sit by the office candy bowl, the more sweets you’ll eat. So I was really excited to read this recent research on colors and weight loss, which found:
1. Contrasting colors help gauge portion control
Being matchy-matchy with your plate and your food (think marinara sauce on a red plate) is a recipe for overeating, according to research from Cornell University. Scientists found that people ate about 20 percent more pasta in Alfredo sauce when it was served on a matching white plate than on a contrasting red one. The researchers think that a color difference helps make the brain more aware of portion sizes.
2. Unnatural colors help curb appetite and snacking
According to my friends at the syndicated TV show The Doctors, the color blue makes us eat less too. A possible reason that dates back to our cavemen days: There are so few blue foods in nature that we’re inclined to avoid them, thinking they might be poisonous. Today, eating on blue plates, or painting your kitchen or dining room blue, might discourage mindless munching.
3. Color-sorted foods help cut down on eating junk
Mentally label what’s in the kitchen: healthy foods are “green,” less-healthy are “yellow,” and those with little nutritional value are “red.” Then, position them in your fridge and pantry so the green foods are most accessible and red foods are hardest to reach. This just may help you cut back on junk, according to a team of Massachusetts General Hospital researchers. When they implemented a similar system in the hospital cafeteria, sales fell of red items like soda, while green items like water and low-fat dairy were on the rise. The fewer red foods you see when you open the door, the better you’ll eat.