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The Social Portion Plate

This plate helps people with portion control and through connection with an app lets people know exactly how many calories they consume.

Photo of Alexandra Alden

Written by

Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it inspire the end user to lead a healthier life?

The plate is a simple technology that crosses socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and is familiar to all.

The portion plate exists in different forms already. What it does is shows you exactly how much of each type of food you should be eating to consume a portion controlled diet for health and weightloss. However none of the current plates are especially eyecatching and the design could use an overhaul. The Twist would be to connect the plate to an app. This could be done through having tiny scales embedded in the plate that would communicate with an app wirelessly. The scale would measure the food then the user could enter the type of food it is. The app would then calculate the calories. This app could be integrated with weightloss programs to help the user achieve there goals. The app could also make suggestions like, "Why not switch that pasta for Quinoa and get more vitamins!" Finally the app could be social and allow users to connect and compete. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

This idea has just been floating around in my head. To prototype it a plate could easily be designed using cardboard separators and an app storyboarded through the user experience map. Then focus groups could be held to get user feedback.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea?

App developers Fabricators who could figure out how scales could communicate with the app.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Inspired by (1)

Swappetizer

18 comments

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Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Alex you're a rockstar! You and your Meetup team have been featured in this week's Highlights blog. Check it out here: https://openideo.com/blog/refresh-10-healthy-lives-challenge-highlights-our-meetup-community

Photo of J J
Team

In my opinion, this is one of the better ideas that have hatched out of this challenge. Why? Because...
1) it doesn't assume the person has a smart phone or internet capable device
2) it doesn't require knowledge of a specific language
3) it's simple and easy enough to understand
4) it's physical and can be easily shared
5) it'd be easy and cheap to reproduce and hand out
6) it allows people to retain their ethnic cooking styles

I'm looking forward to it's progress!

Question for thought: As mentioned in the challenge brief... Being unhealthy is linked to lower income, and since lower income limits the availability of access to kitchens and also to whole foods... Indirectly this implies that income is forcing people to eat unhealthy pre-processed foods. How could this tool still be useful, given this demographic?

Photo of Ana Pena
Team

Alexandra, love the simplicity and the ease of use! I wonder about the traditional and cultural elements of eating and how important they are in Hispanic culture. How can you incorporate those into the next design? How do you allow people to eat traditional dishes or how do you allow people to eat the traditional way (I.e. arroz con pollo or tacos for example) from plates that are regimented to split up the veggies from the protein? Maybe it is in the measuring utensils too? But how else can we tailor this to the Latino way? And how do you keep meal times feeling like a valueable part of building family and community?

Photo of Giada Baldessarelli
Team

Hi Alexandra, I love your idea!
I think it might also help to reduce the amount of food we waste because we throw it away.
I look forward to seeing the progress!

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Very clever idea Alex! We love the integration of an app with the portion plate. Have you thought about who your target users might be? I can see how this product can become a hit at healthy restaurants. It can also be used in schools to teach students about nutrition. Hope everything is well in Bogota!

Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

Hi Shane! The first target users that came to mind would probably be women who are trying to lose weight but I think that you're right in that it could be extended to the whole family. It would be great to incorporate into a school cafeteria to show children how much of each type of food they should have.

Photo of Matthew Colburn
Team

Shane and Alexandra - The potential for impact within the school setting is interesting. I work in school operations and we frequently face a big gap between appropriate portion size and the wants of our students. I can imagine a version of this concept that helps our food service and instructional staff help students make better connections to the size and types of food they should be consuming. This could inspire food service operations to increase choice and kids to feel empowered in their decision making. The "tray" would set up health guide-rails for that process.

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Great to see you in the challenge Alexandra. I like John's provocation around partnerships. How might the portion plate be paired with a media campaign or rewarding healthy behaviors? As your idea evolves, be sure to keep us in the loop by highlighting the changes your idea goes through in the main text.

Photo of André Fernandes
Team

Hi Alexandra, your idea is nice and practical! Really interesting to approach the aspect of portions to eat on a daily basis. In addition to the plate, how could we think to support a person to organize her/his daily meals along a week/month?
Considering the target on hispanics, what other factors could we consider?
And how could we imagine this idea without an app?

Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

If the app could be linked up with a healthy meal plan then it could send out different suggestions on a daily basis. To tailor it to hispanic populations maybe those suggestions could be based on favorite ingredients the user could enter into the app. I think the plate could work fine without an app as well, it could come with a recipe book and instructions on how to calculate calories based on portion nutrition information on labels. What do you think?

Photo of André Fernandes
Team

Hi Alexandra, yeah, I think this idea can work well without an app, too. In addition to recipe book and instructions, maybe develop content across different channels would be a solution to reach different segments of the hispanic populations, depending upon their habits and necessities.

Photo of Miller
Team

I think this is an interesting idea. Weight Watchers has always used a scale. My nutritionist taught me that protein is the size of a deck of cards. I like how this looks and wonder if people would develop the ability to measure in their minds after a period of time. Like eating out...would they internalize the size? It would be a challenge for me to use this as a vegan, because it's outside of the norm. I think your invention would be valued by a number of nutrition focused organizations. Have you heard of Mark Hyman, MD? He started as a staunch vegan and loosened up to reach more people. I think of Dr. Oz liking this as well. Even more important, the organizations that create pre-made foods. Whole Foods, Blue Apron etc.

Photo of John Born
Team

Wow, I am totally blown away. You have such a simple idea, which is why it's so perfect. The connection with the app is a great way to close the loop. Have you thought about developing a partnership? Best with some kind of mass market retailer (ie, Target or Wallmart) who sells both housewares and groceries? Or it could be an exclusive with Whole Foods. Dinnerware based on your portion plate could be FREE when the right combination of healthy foods is purchased at once or over time (ie, healthy portion punch-card/code to scan on the app)!

Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

Oh I like that!

Photo of Ivellisse Morales
Team

Alexandra - I think this is a genius idea! One thing to consider - since you realize that the plate design needs some help - is creating measuring cups and other kitchen appliances that will help measure portions and putting it all in one kit. That way, you can preserve the plate, but place the emphasis in the prep. In the long-term, the portioning will become a habit!

Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

I think the plate still needs to have the portion parts on it but having the measuring accessories to go with it would be great! Could also be used when you don't want to use the plate (say a fancy dinner?)

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Sven Van Echelpoel
Team

I love this idea for its simplicity! There are a bunch of app ideas that further the idea of determining the nutritional content of food, be sure to check them out.