Counting calories can involve a tedious process of weighing food, doing conversions, and logging every meal, or buying an expensive gadget like this device that shoots a laser at your lunch. But then there’s this low-tech alternative: A plate that shows, in a simple graphic, how to eat a balanced meal.
“I saw a need for people to eat healthier, and through design research found that one of the main problems people struggle with is portion control,” says Dutch designer Annet Bruil. “People find it difficult to estimate how many vegetables they should eat. And even if they know it should be 200 grams a day, what does that look like on a plate?”
The ETE plate is divided into sections that show the recommended portion size for vegetables, protein, and starches like rice or pasta. And since most meals combine different food groups, the plate also has an overlapping “mixed” section. The calculations are based on Dutch nutrition guidelines but also aligned with recommendations in the U.S.
“It makes it easier to eat healthily as the plate nudges you to put the right proportion of food groups on your plate,” Bruil says. “You don’t have to weigh your food to know that you are eating according to the nutrition guidelines.”
It’s a simple idea, but one that’s likely to work fairly well. Researchers who studied plates and portion size found that we don’t dish up food based on how hungry we are–we fill up our plate. So smaller plates actually get people to eat less. A right-sized plate, like this one, will presumably get people eating close to the right amount.
The ceramic plates are being manufactured by a social enterprise in the Netherlands that employs people with physical or mental disabilities. “I want the plate not only to benefit the people who use it, but also the people who make it,” Bruil says.
The plate also has a section that’s designed to stay empty, so it’s easier to move food around on the plate. For the designer, it’s also a small reminder of the fact that, as much as someone may be struggling to eat less, there are millions of others who don’t have enough.