Food portions and the pace at which you eat are everything according to strict dieters, but now the secret to staying slim could come down to your actual fork. People who use large forks consume significantly less that those who eat with smaller utensils according the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Researchers said:

“The physiological feedback of feeling full or the satiation signal comes with a time lag. In its absence diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress.”

The scientists pulled a fast one and doubled as waiters, monitoring customers at an Italian restaurant for two days as they ate lunch and dinner with different-sized forks. Fork size varied by table, with some diners getting large utensils and others using small ones.

Servers also weighed each plate of food before it was given to customers and once it was taken back to the kitchen to determine how much food had been eaten.

Diners who tackled a full plate with a small fork were found to eat much more than those who used larger utensils. People who use smaller utensils feel they are eating less food was the outcome. However, when diners were served smaller portions of food, fork size didn’t have an effect on how much they ate.

Here are five other tips for diners who are watching their weight:

  1. Share an entrée with a friend when you go to a restaurant.
  2. Choose a regular singular hamburger at your favorite fast food stop instead of the larger burger or the double burger.
  3. Have the small fries instead of the super-sized.
  4. Order the small soda.
  5. Ask for half your meal to be packed for you and eat it for lunch the next day.

Over the past few decades, portion sizes of everything from muffins to sandwiches have grown considerably. Unfortunately, America’s waistbands have reacted accordingly. In the 1970s, around 47% of Americans were overweight or obese; now 66% are. In addition, the number of just obese people has doubled, from 15% t of the U.S. population to 30.

While increased sizes haven’t been the sole contributor to the obesity epidemic, large quantities of cheap food have distorted our perceptions of what a typical meal is supposed to look like.

Because portions are now so large, it’s hard to understand what a “serving size” is supposed to be. Today’s bagel counts for three servings of bread, but many of us would consider it one serving. Larger sizes at restaurants have also contributed to larger sizes when eating at home. A study comparing eating habits today with twenty years ago found that participants poured themselves about 20% more cornflakes and 30% more milk than twenty years ago.

Maybe it’s time for a bigger spoon too.

Sources: The American Cancer Society and The Journal of Consumer Research

Written by Sy Kraft