The Seemingly Good Habit That Causes You to Eat an Extra 500 Calories Daily

POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts
POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts

Anyone who's ever been part of the Clean Plate Club probably has suspected this, but a new, large study from the UK confirms it: we eat far more calories than we need when served food on large plates and with large utensils.

The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge, reviewed results from 61 studies and 6,700 participants and found that people consistently consume more food and drinks when offered larger portions, either when in packages or on plates, than when offered smaller-sized portions. Just the size of your plate can lead to eating about 527 more calories per day in the US and 279 calories in the UK, the researchers found.

"Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption," said co-lead author Dr. Gareth Hollands. "Helping people to avoid 'overserving' themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating."

The researchers say just small changes like changing the type of glasses, cutlery, and tableware used for serving, repackaging products so serving sizes are more clearly demarcated, or placing food further away from purchasers to make them less accessible could all help reduce overconsumption by as much as 16 percent in the UK and 29 percent in the US. While food manufacturers are unlikely to take steps to discourage you to buy their products, you can take matters into your own hands at home. When serving food, use salad plates instead of large dinner plates, measure out servings instead of eyeballing it, and use smaller utensils to eat (if you need help, these portion-control products make figuring out serving sizes easy for anyone). Not only is cooking for yourself healthier than eating out, but you also might just save over 500 calories a day — the equivalent of a pound a week!