"Flavor intensity increases as the color level on our plate increases," says food scientist Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., an Institute of Food Technologists spokesperson. "For example, research has shown that strawberry mousse served on a white plate rates consistently higher in flavor intensity, sweetness and enjoyability than the identical mousse served on a black plate." The theory is that if there's a high color contrast between the plate and the food (like reddish-pink mousse on a stark white dish), your food will appear more vibrant, which translates into you believing it tastes more intense. "For people who love powerful flavors, I'll serve bright-colored fruit and vegetables on a white plate to enhance their flavor perception," says Shelke. "But I'd place that same colorful produce on a dark plate to mute their flavor for picky eaters, kids or people who are trying a certain vegetable for the first time."
Trying to eat less? A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people tend to serve themselves less food when there's a high contrast between tableware and food. For example, if you piled pasta Alfredo on a red plate you'd take less than if you put that same meal on an all-blends-together white plate. In fact, the white-on-white folks in the study served themselves 22 percent more food than those with a high-contrast combo.