The science of the bowl

by Andrew Cullen art and culture editor

Eating involves all five senses. We taste the sweetness of honey, we see the bright colors of fruit, we hear the crunch of a freshly baked baguette, we feel the chew of a thick steak, and we smell the enticing aroma of freshly baked cookies.

However, there is another factor that affects the taste of the food. Whether or not we eat from a bowl or a plate has an impact on both the satisfaction and satiety we receive. Food eaten from a bowl has been shown to taste better and is more filling than the same food served on a plate.

Ellen Byron, writing for the New York Times, reported that the sales of bowls are rising. As the American lifestyle has shifted from formal to casual, diners prefer to eat one-course meals with layered flavors, cradle their food while they recline on a couch, or multitask on work while they eat.

All this might sound crazy, but there is science to back it.

Charles Spence, an expert in the psychology of taste at the University of Oxford, said, “I certainly believe that the plate ware we use to eat from plays a role in what things tastes like. Everything from the texture, the temperature or the feel or the plate ware or bowl can fit into this.”

For example, research has shown that the texture and color of food influences the taste of the food and how full we feel afterward. Heavier utensils make a meal seem more expensive than it actually is. Holding a warm bowl or cup of food makes those around you appear warmer and friendlier. In the same way, food eaten from a bowl appears to taste better. Spence cited the example of how a heavier bowl weight can make the food taste “more rich or intense.”

BBC reported, “These days, it’s not so much about what you eat — but how you eat it.” Eating food from a bowl is a simple change we all can make in order to reduce calorie intake, make healthier choices and improve the taste of food.

From a caloric standpoint, an SDR bowl is a smarter choice because it holds less food than an SDR plate. From a caloric quality standpoint, the types of food that fit into a bowl are generally healthier. For example, pizza, burgers, and sandwiches do not fit into a bowl. On the other hand, rice, soups and salads are generally eaten from a bowl. A simple way to eat less food and healthier food is to only eat food that can fit into a bowl.

Global marketing director for Waterford Howard Hyde observed, “Americans have been so influenced by Asian cuisine and cooking over the last 20 years, and traditional Asian dining is all about the bowl.” There is good reason to believe that the prevalence of the bowl in Asian cuisine has led to Asian countries being some of the healthiest countries in the world.

Eating food from a bowl has become increasingly popular and for good reasons. As the culture has become more casual and people are making healthier food choices, the bowl is the ideal serving dish for a tasty appetizer, main course, or dessert. Making the switch from a plate to a bowl can limit caloric intake while keeping food warmer and making it more delicious.

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