Colour as a cue to eat: Effects of plate colour on snack intake in pre-school children

Sharon A. Carstairs, Samantha J. Caton, Marion M. Hetherington, Barbara J. Rolls, Joanne E. Cecil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Environmental cues, such as the colour of food and dishware, have been shown to influence food and drink consumption in adult populations. This proof of concept study investigated whether plate colour could be utilised as a strategy to reduce intake of high energy density (HED) snacks and increase intake of low energy density (LED) snacks in pre-school children. In a between and within-subjects design, children were randomly assigned to either a control group (no colour message) or intervention group (received a colour message: red = stop, green = go) and were provided a snack at nursery on three occasions on differently coloured plates (red, green, white), for each snack type (HED, LED). Snack intake, colour preference, colour association, and anthropometrics were recorded for each child. The results showed that there was no effect of group (control vs intervention) on HED (p = 0.540) and LED intake (p = 0.575). No effect of plate colour on HED (p = 0.147) or LED snack intake (p = 0.505) was evident. Combining red and green plates for a chromatic versus achromatic comparison showed that there was no significant effect of chromatic plate on HED (p = 0.0503) and LED (p = 0.347) intakes. Despite receiving a brief learning intervention, the use of plate colour was found in the present study to be an ineffective strategy to control snack food intake in pre-school aged children. Rather, we suggest that food intake in young children may best be predicted by portion size, energy density and eating behaviour traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103862
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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