Eating off certain colored plates improves the taste of food for picky eaters

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found picky eaters perceive food eaten out of red bowls to be saltier and less desirable than the same food served in white bowls. The findings add to understandings of how taste perception can be influenced by plates and cutlery.

We all may know someone we consider to be a picky eater, prone to disliking some common ingredients and causing social havoc when ordering at restaurants. But for some people picky eating can actually become a serious disorder, and clinical definitions of picky eating behaviors often include people who only consume around 20 different kinds of foods.

“Having restricted diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as health problems such as heart disease, poor bone health and dental issues,” explained Lorenzo Stafford, one of the authors on the latest study. “There is also a social cost because normally enjoyable moments between family members can easily turn into stressful, anxious, and conflict-causing situations when picky eaters feel ashamed or pressured to eat food.”

A 2018 study estimated nearly one in five American adults could be clinically categorized as picky eaters. So exploring ways to help these people better engage with more types of food could result in valuable health outcomes.

The new research homed in on the effect of plate color on food desirability for picky eaters. The experiment was based on a foundational study from 2011 which looked at the way different colored food bowls affected a person’s perception of taste.


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