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Trendy portion-control plate coaches you on eating smarter

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Changing your dinnerware could be the secret to weight loss success

Do you know how much to eat at every meal?

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, most Americans have no clue how much food to consume in a day. It's safe to say that we know how much we want to eat — but our rapidly expanding waistlines indicate that we clearly have no clue what we're doing.

Our general incompetence at healthy eating is exactly why Dutch designer Annet Bruil created the ETE plate. The plate specifies how much food to place inside five painted-on triangles. It looks kind of like a sliced pie, except that each slice is a different size, depending on which food it contains. The vegetable slice, predictably, is quite large; the meat slice, sadly, is not. There's no slice for pie, which is both cruel and ironic.

But does a tool like this really support weight loss and healthy eating? The ETE site states that it does, claiming that users both reduce their portion sizes and increase their intake of healthy fruits and veggies. The plate is even used by social projects that promote healthy habits in kids who suffer from ADHD or obesity. That all sounds like good stuff, particularly for would-be dieters who genuinely want to reduce portion sizes, but aren't sure how.

However, several studies indicate that dieters don't always respond to factual information, like the ETE plate's information about portions. By now, for example, you've certainly noticed that fast food menus include calorie counts for consumers, but New York University Medical Center has found that calorie information doesn't actually change consumer eating habits. In other words, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Or, you can give a dieter a portion plate, but he or she may entirely ignore its suggestions.

Look, it's incredibly important for Americans to understand healthy eating habits and portion sizes. Without that knowledge, there's no way a diet can be successful. And educational tools, like those available at MyPlate or even the ETE plate, may be useful to some people. But a tool is just that — a tool. It's not an answer. The answer is within ourselves and our commitment to a lifetime of healthy habits, not just a trendy portion plate.

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