Utensils can influence food taste, how much you eat, study finds

(CBS News) It's not just what you eat that can affect your diet. A new study in the journal Flavour finds your choice of utensils can influence how food tastes, and how much you eat.

Researchers looked at utensils -- spoons and forks and knives -- and tried to figure out how they affected our perception of taste and how they affected the flavor of food. It turns out if you eat, for instance, yogurt off a lightweight, plastic spoon, it tastes more filling and seems more dense than yogurt off of a silver spoon.

Color contrast matters, too. Less contrast makes things taste sweeter. So white yogurt on a white spoon, for instance, tastes sweeter than pink yogurt on a white spoon.

In a press release, Dr. Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence, who performed this study, said: "How we experience food is a multi-sensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes. Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgment about it, which affects our overall experience."

Harrar continued: "Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears. So, when serving a dish, one should keep in mind that the color of the food appears different depending on the background on which it is presented (plate or cutlery) and, therefore, tastes different. This may also be used to help control eating patterns such as portion size or how much salt is added to food. Alternatively, people may be able to make better food choices if their ingrained color associations are disrupted by less constant advertising and packaging."

Dr. Holly Phillips remarked on "CBS This Morning": "This really is an example of what some are calling a new frontier of medicine known as environmental psychology. It's basically accepting that environment changes our sensory perceptions. So whether it's touch or sound or sight, or in this case, taste."

For more on this study and others that have shown environment contributes to what we eat with respect to colors, plate size and scents, watch the full "CTM" segment above.