Plate model helps students with ID eat healthier

By Eva Flygare Wallén
Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Unhealthy eating habits increase the risk for future cardiometabolic diseases and some kind of cancers. A rich intake of fruit and vegetables are proven healthy. People with intellectual disabilities (ID) eat less fruit and vegetables than recommended.

What did you do in your research?model plate
We used a special plate to increase vegetable intake. The model plate had colored pictures of different food categories on the edge. It showed which types of food groups should go where and how much plate can be filled up with that particular food group. This was used at a school that served a hot cooked meal for lunch every day. Students that had eaten on the special plate (for at least six months) were compared to a control group in an experimental lunch buffet situation. Video recording and photos were taken of their servings.

What did you find out?
Students that had eaten on the special plate chose food lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates, more were satisfied with one portion and had a smaller amount of leftovers. No differences were found in vegetable intake between the two groups.

What are the take-home messages?
A hands-on tool such as the Plate Model can affect food choices positively. It is possible to facilitate healthier food choices.

To learn more about these findings contact Eva Flygare Wallen.

Full Journal Article
Wallen, E.F., Mullerdorf, M. Christensson, K. and Marcus, C. (2013). Eating Patterns Among Students With Intellectual Disabilities After a Multifactorial School Intervention Using the Plate Model. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 10(1), 45-53.