Piling your food into one bowl or plate saves on dishwashing time sure, but it might be at the cost of your waistline.
What’s more satisfying than piling a plate or bowl high with tasty, colorful, healthy ingredients—and then Instagramming it? (I mean, proof is in these 6 Bowl Recipes. And how pretty are these Acai Breakfast Bowls?) The problem is that serving food this way might increase your odds of overeating.
New research published in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when women received rice with beef, vegetables, and other additions already piled in, they ate faster and downed an extra 1.4 ounces of food on average, compared to those who received their meal components in small separate dishes. What’s more, despite eating a bit more, the ladies who got the mixed meal didn’t feel any more satisfied than the other women who ate their food separately.
An extra 1.4 ounces might sound like nothing, but depending on exactly what kind of food you’re downing, it could end up making quite a difference. That amount of cooked long-grain white rice costs about 52 calories while that portion of braised beef stew meat is 72.
The researchers served ladies the bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish made with a base of rice topped with tasty add-ins like veggies, chili paste, meat, and a fried egg, but other mixed dishes, like breakfast bowls, might pose a similar threat, says Marisa Moore, R.D., an Atlanta-based food and nutrition consultant. Although mixed meals tend to be convenient and portable, they have a drawback compared to separate dishes. “Separate meals naturally require more mindfulness,” she says. “When presented with several foods in separate dishes, we naturally think ‘Hmmm where do I start?'”
The bottom line? “One study doesn’t deliver the final word but I think it’s worth a go for anyone trying to lose weight or simply have more mindful meals,” says Moore. Try packing your lunch into a pre-portioned lunch box. At home, consider serving parts of your meal on small appetizer plates.