Studying Traylessness

I was talking with food psychology guru Brian Wansink yesterday (he of the portion studies involving refilling bowls, different shaped glasses and stale popcorn). Back at Cornell after his USDA stint, Wansink casually dropped the news that he just started a two-part study on trayless dining.

courtesy of Cornell Food and Brand LabMy ears perked up as Wansink described how he and his crew in the Food and Brand Lab will study two dinners where Cornell’s Purcell Hall will serve the same foods. Monday was the first night (the control) and the second (without trays) will be later in April.

The study will assess the amount and kinds of foods wasted by weighing and categorizing it. The study will track whether students take less of a certain foods without a tray, by tallying wasted desserts, salads and meats. Researchers will also interview students clearing their plate(s).

While previous studies and anecdotal reports have assessed the amount of food waste reduction, nobody has considered trays’ effect on healthful eating. Until now.

Wansink’s study will do that by ascertaining whether traylessness changes the amount of food students actually consume and their nutritional balance. For instance, without trays, do students they take less salad or dessert? Do they take less variety, eating a less balanced meal? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you really should check out Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating. It’s a fascinating look the decisions (conscious and subconscious) behind what we ingest.

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