The Self Refilling Soup Bowl (and what it tells us)


Does portion size effect how much we eat? You bet it does! In a study which used self refilling soup bowls to measure whether visual cues relating to portion size effected how much we eat, participants who were unknowingly eating from the self refilling soup bowls ate 73% more than those who had your normal run of the mill, everyday, no tricks soup bowl.


Despite this large difference in soup intake, the subjects did not believe they had eaten more, nor did they report feeling more sated than those eating from normal bowls. In other words, we eat what’s in front of us, and the amount we eat doesn’t really determine when we stop.


How many of us grew up being told to finish what’s on our plate? I certainly was. How many of us tell our own children to? I’ve been guilty of it, but I must say generally because my 5 yr old announces he’s full when all that’s left on his plate is broccoli!


The bottomless soup bowl study shows us that if eating your plate clean is considered the norm, then we’ll eat what’s put in front of us, just because the expectation that is an appropriate sized serving has already  been set.


Larger portions and packages suggest larger consumption norms. The amount we put on our plate suggests the amount which is supposed to be eaten.  As the researchers put it “A person’s eyes may influence how much they consume, leading them to be less influenced by physiological cues of satiation. As a result, their estimate of how much they have consumed and how sated they are may have to do more with what they believe they saw themselves eat and less with how much they actually ate.”


Turning it around

It stands to reason that these visual consumption cues can also be used to suppress our food intake. Here are some tips for reducing the amount you eat

  • Use a smaller plate, bowl, cup or glass. This should lead you to thinking you are having a full portion, and make you less likely to ask for more.
  • Repackage bulk  products into smaller ziplock bags (eg nuts, seeds, and dare I say it potato chips). Doing this for kids especially will lead them to believe they’ve had a full serving and eat less than what they would normally consume.
  • Don’t serve food at the table. Having food sitting in front of you at the dinner table is very suggestive of it being normal to have more than what you are originally served.
  • Pick smaller pieces of fruit if possible.
  • Look at the weight and calorie yield of a slice of bread – compare packets before you buy the bread. The size of a slice of bread these days seems to be about twice the size it was when I ws a kid!

See more on portion size, and have a look at this very simple guide to portion sizes.


What are some of things which you’ve noticed have increased in portion size since you were a kid?

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