Finding a way to get kids to eat their vegetables is the Kobayashi Maru of parenting. Even a victory comes with sacrifices and trade-offs. But instead of forcing parents to become master negotiators, this simple plate instead uses clever psychology tricks to make vegetables look more palatable and portions appear smaller than they really are.
HAK, a Dutch manufacturer of canned, preserved vegetables, worked with scientists at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands to develop the Helping Plate: a dining accessory for kids that takes several approaches to increase their intake of healthy vegetables. For starters, the Helping Plate is designed to look like the plain ceramic plates that grownups use and is devoid of bright colours or cartoon characters to encourage kids to emulate their parents’ eating behaviours.
Using the Delbouef illusion, an optical illusion that fools the mind through relative size perception, the Helping Plate is also much larger than the plates younger children usually eat from, which helps to make vegetable portion sizes look smaller by comparison, when in reality they’re not.
To further help hide the true size of vegetable portions, the Helping Plate also features a subtle indentation that holds a larger portion while masking how much is actually there, so kids don’t get anxious about how much healthy stuff is actually on their plate. The indent is also pushed to the edge of the plate and is designed to be positioned nearest to the child so that ideally it’s the first thing they consume and fill up on most.
The Helping Plate also plays with colour to help further the cause of healthy eating. The side of the plate with the indentation is bright white to make vegetables as visually appealing as possible, while the rest of the plate gradually transitions to a darker, grayer shade so that amongst everything a child is being served, the veggies look the most appetizing.
Is it a foolproof way to bolster a child’s veggie intake? Probably not — kids are a lot smarter than adults usually think they are — but the strategies the Helping Plate employs could at least make the dinner table less of a warzone in households with picky eaters. Unfortunately, the plate is only available in the Netherlands for about $US16 ($21) and the first 1,000 produced quickly sold out. But another run is on the way, and hopefully it will be available through online retailers who don’t mind shipping it across the pond.