Portion control and super-sized everything have taken their toll on the waists of the world, especially in the United States. In every town and city you’ll find an all-you-can-eat buffet within easy driving distance. If not that, how about a diner / restaurant that piles the food so high you can’t see the person across the table? The dining establishments may be feeding the frenzy, but it is the consumers who are getting out of control. And not just when eating out. Dinner plates are larger than ever, and, being good Americans, we feel obligated to empty them.
An article in the July, 2007, edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association defines at least one cause of the expanding American waistline: overeating. The indictment that, “…portion distortion begins as early as 3 years of age” is quite the slap. Regardless of gender or hemisphere of residence, education or employment, portion size has the same impact. “People tend to eat more from larger-sized restaurant portions (in the general range of 30% to 50% more) and they tend to serve themselves and eat more from larger-sized packages (in the general range of 20% to 40% more).” It really is easy to “make room for more” when your plate is filled, when, all along, you’d have been satisfied with six ounces of spaghetti instead of the ten sitting in front of you. All of us are unable to estimate the number of calories we’ve just eaten, and it gets harder to do as the pile of food gets taller and wider. “…even registered nurses and dietitians—are inaccurate at estimating the calories from large portions.” (Wansink. 2007)
Bigger is better when it comes to the size of the guardian angel that accompanies you through that dark alley downtown on your way home from the late shift. Besides that, a pile of fifties is better when bigger. When it comes to food, though, we need to be more aware of bigger. Early in 2001, the Centers for Disease Control noticed that 61% of Americans are overweight, an increase from the 55% of only a few years earlier. (Peregrin. 2001) That can’t be blamed on the food industry, whose job is to sell food, not good nutrition.
Lots of us were taught by Mom to clean our plates. That wasn’t too much of a concern when the dinner plate was 9 inches in diameter. Somewhere along the line, though, it grew to ten inches, then to twelve, and, in some venues, fourteen. We have a friend who bought a farmhouse built in the 1940’s—a real beauty, too. When his wife tried to put the dinnerware into the built-in cabinets, the plates wouldn’t fit. They were too big. A little nosing around found that dinner plates were less than 9 inches in diameter back then.
Since we’re unlikely to change plates at home, we can settle for smaller servings. But the psychological factor might make us feel deprived. Using a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-incher will save between 100 and 500 calories a day. A pound equates to about 3500 calories, so the math is easy. By swapping out plates, you can lose between 0.2 and 1.0 pounds a week. Losing weight slowly gives you ample time to get accustomed to the new regimen…and you likely will not regain what you’ve lost.
Many Americans view eating out as a treat, meant to be a full, rewarding experience. In a group, it’s difficult to spoil it for others by ordering an appetizer as an entrée. On the other hand, many restaurateurs disagree, saying an appetizer is perfectly acceptable as a main meal. Although you can’t order half a meal and expect to pay half the price, you can take it home. With home cooked meals, in lieu of buying new dinnerware, try using a salad plate. In a little while your appetite will shrink to fit the size of the dish… and so will your belt.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Vol 107, Is 7 , Pp 1103-1106, July 2007
Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms
Brian Wansink, PhD, Koert van Ittersum, PhD
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 101(6); Jun 2001: 620
A Super-sized Problem: Restaurant Chains Piling on the Food
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 103(2); Feb 2003: 231-234
Expanding portion sizes in the US marketplace: Implications for nutrition counseling
Lisa R Young, PhD, RD and Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jun 25;167(12):1277-83.
Portion control plate for weight loss in obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a controlled clinical trial.
Pedersen SD, Kang J, Kline GA.
Plate Size Might Influence Weight Gain
MELISSA CONRAD STÖPPLER, MD
Size of a Diet Plate
Ashley Jacob, RD
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.