Why America is Overweight, Part V: Larger Portions

Just in time to catch the end of the holiday eating season and the beginning of the new year’s resolution  season, one more comment on why America is overweight. (If you want to see the whole series on “Why America is overweight.” click here to go back to part I https://huffygirl.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/why-is-america-overweight/

Doesn't this look healthy? (Photo courtesy of http://www.localwin.com/julie/healthy-food/)

Along with cheese, liquid calories, and diet soda, add portion size to the obesity puzzle. Why are food portions larger than they were 30 or even 20 years ago? Restaurants and fast food places over time have made their portions larger, either by just plain giving a larger serving, or making “meal deals” that make it less expensive to buy more food.  (https://huffygirl.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/do-you-want-a-gallon-of-soda-with-that-americans-love-affair-with-food/) And  if we buy it of course we’re going to eat it.   What drives this change? Some theorize that restaurants began serving larger potions because they believe that is what their customers want. In part, it may be due to people wanting to “get their money’s worth.” In addition, as younger chefs and cooks take over for their older counterparts, they serve larger portions because they grew up eating larger portions. Another contributor is “all you can eat” buffets  – Old Country Buffet, and the like. Buffet restaurants prepare food in such bulk that they can afford to allow customers to eat large quantities, and still make money. 

So what’s a person to do with food so plentiful for most of us, and restaurants dishing up more food than we need to eat for a typical meal?  Restaurants aren’t going to help us any time soon by giving us smaller portions. You’ll have to take control of your own portion size if you want to lose or maintain your weight. Here’s a few tips to try.

Ask for a take out container when your food is served. When your food arrives, take one-quarter to one-half of it off your plate (depending on what you’re eating and how large the portion is) and set it aside in the take-out box. Then eat the remaining food. If you find you’re still hungry when you’re done, you can always dip into the take-out box, but many people will find that the partial serving was enough.

Avoid “meal deals” and coupons. Even though these save you money, if you have to buy more food than you need to eat, it’s not worth it, unless you really are going to take it home to eat for another meal. 

Try the ‘plate” method of portion control.   Take a 9-inch dinner plate and draw an imaginary

(Photo courtesy of Mypyramid.gov)

line across the middle, so it is divided in half. Add another imaginary line across one half.  Now your plate is divided into one half and two quarters. The half is for non-starchy vegetables. One quarter is for starch/carbs – bread, rice, potato, pasta or corn. The other quarter is for protein. A  3-ounce piece of meat, chicken, fish will typically fit in this spot. This is easy to do at home but you can even do it when eating out, by putting whatever does not fit into your imaginary sections into your take-out box. Click the link to get a full explanation with pictures of the plate method of portion control. http://www.nyc.gov/html/hhc/diabetes/html/eat/portion_control.shtml

What works for you? What do you do to avoid over-eating and keep those weight-loss new year resolutions?


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4 thoughts on “Why America is Overweight, Part V: Larger Portions

  1. Having grown up with an Italian grandmother who was constantly trying to force feed us, I always had a skewed sense of portion size. About three years ago, I ended up with the flu. It was so bad, I thought I was going to die. I didn’t eat or drink a thing for almost two weeks and lost eleven pounds. It got me rethinking Nan’s ideas on what would make me die of starvation. 😉 I kept that weight off and lost another another 17 for a total of 28 and have kept that off for over 2 years. I always ate healthy foods, just way too many of them at a sitting. The thing about eating only a portion of your restaurant food is one of the best things you can do. I find that most restaurant dinners are enough for three servings. That’s insane.

    Great post, HuffyGirl.

  2. Enjoyed the post and especially the fact that the “plate method” looks like Mickey Mouse.

    I have banned french fries for January. Don’t ask how often I eat them, just know that banning them for a month will a) be difficult and b) make a difference.

    Splitting items at a restaurant (with friends or family) also helps. And the age-old planning ahead for meals…this one I am not good at but trying it out this year.

    • All good ideas WTM. Hope your french fry ban is successful. I’ve suggested a similiar ban on cheese to folks who tell me they want to lose weight but don’t want to work at it. I’ve never heard anyone take me up on it though.

      When it comes to french fries, if they’re the plain Ore-Ida variety, I can pass them up. But the crispy, seasoned ones that some restaurants serve – yum! They are hard to give up, but I don’t have them often so use that as my excuse.

      I bet you can do meal planning online – I’ve never tried it. You could probably find a site that calculates your calories too!

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