Obesity and portion sizes
USA Today reports on data presented at the annual meeting of NAASO (North American Association for the Study of Obesity) and the Obesity Society taking place in Vancouver, BC showing that people who are given large portions of food will eat more. A lot more, in fact. A group of normal weight and overweight adults were fed standard portions of food from a laboratory kitchen for an 11 day period. When the same group was provided with larger portions for another 11 day stretch, they
ate an average of 400 more calories a day when served the larger portions for a total of 4,473 more calories over 11 days.
they ate more for the entire 11 days, even though they reported being less hungry and more full over that time.
when the portions increased, participants ate more of the entrees, snacks and side dishes but not more vegetables.
This whole idea of portion sizes seems to be belaboring the obvious: you get more food put before you, you eat more. But, I think it is extremely important in terms of weight management. I don’t recall my parents admonishing me to clean up my plate when I was a kid, but somehow I got the message. I’ll eat almost anything that is put before me, and I’ll eat it all. If there isn’t a whole lot on my plate, I won’t eat a whole lot. If, on the other hand, there are giant servings, I’ll eat every last bite. I don’t think I’m alone on this.
It’s pretty easy to not overeat if you don’t give yourself the opportunity by making and/or serving yourself giant portions.
When I was a teenager MacDonald’s was just getting going. I remember that in the early pre-Big Mac days all the food at MacDonald’s cost $0.15. It was 15 cents for a hamburger (a little ground beef patty, a small bun, and a minimal amount of mustard/ketchup/pickle/onion smear), 15 cents for an order of fries, and 15 cents for a soft drink. For a buck I could get a couple of burgers, two orders of fries, and a drink. At the time I worked in a gas station pumping gas and pretending to be a mechanic for a whopping $1.45 an hour, which was the minimum wage at the time. So, with my take home pay for an hour’s work I could get the above MacDonald’s meal and a little change left over.
Today, the minimum wage for an hour’s work will buy a teenager and Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder, a “Super Sized” order of fries, and a bottomless soft drink. When I got my stuff at MacDonald’s years ago my dinky little orders of fries were cooked in beef tallow and my 12 ounces of soft drink was sweetened with sugar. Today MacDonald’s cooks their giant orders of fries in a slurry of trans fats and sweetens their monster refill-em-all-you-want soft drinks with high-fructose corn syrup. Is it any wonder today’s kids are fat?
If I had had all this same stuff available to me as a teenager I would have been first in line to get the giant burgers, the Super Sized fries, and the all-you-can-drink soft drinks. Fortunately, my appetite was limited by my pocketbook, which, sadly seems not to be the case for today’s teens. The hour a kid works today for minimum wage buys a whole lot more of a whole lot worse food than it did in my day. And, as the folks found out in the study presented at NAASO, if you give people more food, they’ll eat it.
On a brighter note, whenever there is a major problem, someone, somewhere, comes up with an ingenious solution. In the case of the overlarge portion sizes a British inventor in a dazzling burst of insight seized on the idea of taking a plate, a plain old standard dinner plate, and dividing it up into map like areas for types of food. Carbs go here in this spot, sauces here, other stuff there. By keeping the food within the boundaries on the plate, portion sizes are limited. This plate, the Diet Plate, has become the rage amongst dieters in England. As Dave Barry would say, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Here is the website.
Alas, America will have to wait for the Diet Plate. A load of the plates, the first ever to be marketed in the US, awaiting shipment to the Home Shopping Network, were stolen from the warehouse. The trial of the miscreants is currently underway and providing a large portion of humor to the Brits.