This Simple Purchase Actually Makes Meals Much More Enjoyable
As any food blogger can tell you, when it comes to photography, the plates, bowls, flatware and glassware matters just as much as the meal. On popular recipe websites and Instagram accounts, gorgeous bespoke pottery gets as much screen time as the sweet potato gnocchi and noodle bowls.
This helps create a story around the recipe offered—on the other side of the screen, we can imagine ourselves picking up that carved wooden spoon and digging in. This, of course, encourages us to click on the recipe and make it in our own kitchens. But pretty plates aren't just for bloggers and recipe developers: Investing in a few pieces of your own could promote mindfulness around mealtime, resulting in higher levels of satiety and satisfaction. Here's how.
Related: What Is Mindful Eating?
Why Does Mindfulness Matter Around Mealtime?
Mindfulness gets top billing in discussions around mental health, but it's actually a very simple, doable practice. As Dr. Theresa White, a smell and taste researcher and professor of Psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York explains, "Mindfulness is a state of being that focuses on awareness of your present situation." Study after study has shown the positive effects of mindfulness for better health, reduced stress levels and even lowered blood pressure.
When you bring mindfulness to the dinner table, you are better equipped to note and respond to your hunger and fullness levels. Dr. Adam Wenzel, who teaches courses in the Psychology of Eating at Harvard University and Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and explains: "There is data to suggest that mindfulness-based strategies may be useful for individuals with disordered eating behaviors to better recognize the many physiological and psychological cues that signal or influence hunger and satiety."
How to Create Mindfulness with Attractive Tableware
Will the purchase of a unique pottery plate alone make you a zen master around mealtime? Of course not. Dr. Wenzel explains, "When presented with food, we undertake a sensory evaluation of it and although it might smell tantalizing and it might taste delicious, nothing is more important than how it looks. Most of us would not eat Green Eggs and Ham, even if Sam-I-Am served it to us on a fancy platter."
But since you are (most likely) not eating green eggs and ham, the right platter could help you show up for yourself at mealtime. Dr. Wenzel says "Plating visually acceptable foods on attractive serveware, especially with color-complementary foods and contrast-enhancing garnishes, tends to enhance the appearance of the food, which in turn influences our perceptions of taste and smell. It also tends to enhance our perceptions of a cuisine's authenticity and overall food quality."
White plates and bowls are a popular choice in food photography, because they serve as a blank canvas for the food. But color choice really can make a difference; the color red has been shown to boost our perception of the sweet taste (which makes sense, when you consider the visuals of a ripe strawberry or cherry).
But more important than color might be your emotional reaction association to the tableware. As Dr. White explains, "creating a context of positivity" during mealtime will build happy memories and associations with mealtime. If you struggle with dieting or maintaining good health, this could be a big boost to your eating experience.
Finally there's another, much simpler reason why reaching for that favorite plate makes you mindful: It reduces distraction.
"Distraction is a deterrent to mindfulness," says Dr. White. In an era where we have a dozen distractions at hand (and in hand, thanks to smartphones), we are often multitasking through mealtimes. The act of choosing to sit and enjoy the meal or snack with an attractive plate or bowl works because you're not scrolling Facebook or running back and forth to the laundry room. It invites you to be present to the aroma, aesthetic, flavors and textures in your meal.
Can the Material of Your Tableware Affect Food's Flavor?
Dr. Charles Spence, a leading researcher in sensory perception around mealtime at Oxford, has studied how the tableware and other situational cues affect our eating experience. For example, through studies Dr. Spence has found that the type of metal your spoon is made of matters. Zinc and copper spoons imparted an unpleasantly metallic taste, while gold spoons rated high in neutrality (as a bonus, they look gorgeous on the 'gram.)
Does the Size of Your Plate Really Matter?
So the aesthetic of your tableware matters — at least, when it comes to a boost in mindfulness. What about size? You may have heard that eating dinner on a salad plate, instead of a large platter, can help you keep portion sizes under control. The jury's still out on whether this is true, as some of the major research around this topic has come under recent scrutiny.
But there are still benefits to making a conscious choice around eating from a bowl or plate, rather than straight from the packaging. Says Dr. Wenzel: "Although we tend to consume more calories during a meal, we also count them toward our 'three-meals-a-day' quota. We do not tally our snacking in the same way, and may, if we are eating straight from the bag or container, poorly monitor our intake of often unhealthy foods." The simple act of plating your food can help you bring serving size back to top of mind.
Where to Buy Pretty Pottery Plates & Bowls
While there is certainly no shortage of costly, custom pottery available for sale, you don't have to spend your entire paycheck on a few plates. Even big-box stores like Target are offering beautiful options for serveware. Here are a few of our favorite options, featuring a variety of budgets and sellers.
Whether you build a collection of plates and bowls for every occasion, or reach for the same favorite chipped coffee mug every morning, what matters most is that you're enjoying the experience.
Stoneware Dinner Plate from Hearth & Hand at Target
Joanna Gaines does it again. These beautiful plates look like custom ceramic work, but they're only 5.99 a pop. Bonus? They're dishwasher and microwave safe, and come in a variety of glazes and sizes.
The Breakfast Bowl from East Fork Pottery
Just the right size for that yogurt and granola, and with a middle-of-the-road price, this breakfast bowl is a fan favorite of this popular potter.
Peony Pageant Dinner Plate from Bed Bath & Beyond
Transport yourself to a Victorian garden dinner party with this delicate bone-china plate from Bed Bath & Beyond.
Schott Zwiesell Sensa Stemware from Williams Sonoma
That glass of rosé deserves better than the mason jar you typically use to store granola. These elegant, modern wine glasses may not turn your into a sommelier, but they'll definitely up the "fancy" factor of your favorite bottle. And they start at just $10 a glass.
White and Matte Gold Flatware Set from Amazon
There's just something so luxe about gold flatware. This unique design sold on Amazon is two-tone, with white-dipped handles. Gorgeous.
Marble & Mango Wood Cheeseboard from Amazon
Instantly turn that sad "cheese and crackers" dinner into a stunning charcuterie board with this unique cheese board, made from marble and wood. It's 10" and priced just right.