Portion control – Is serving size the problem?

August 10, 2013

Many of us were brought up, and can remember being to told to ‘finish what’s on my plate!’ If you take time to reflect on this message, it was of course driven with the positive intentions to reduce an individuals fussiness towards food, whilst simultaneously increase an individuals respect for food. Unfortunately, with all these things there might also be a negative, and that being the promotion of eating beyond the feelings of fullness and a resultant distortion of portion control!

Life is never quite so simple, but why is it that some feel obliged to indulge on everything on the plate regardless of how full they feel, whilst others are happy to sit back and feel satisfyingly full with half a plate of food ready for the bin? Perhaps education is the problem or just a conscious awareness of feelings of satiety.

Even when we are educated about the impact of portion size on consumption and we are consciously aware of it, large servings still make us eat more. Portion sizes at home and in restaurants have grown considerably in the last 40 years and so have several countries obesity epidemic. The availability of larger and disproportionally cheaper portion sizes, has led to a greater temptation to buy big. I’ve never seen anyone buying a tall Caramel Macchiato in Starbucks and the Cadbury sharing bags are rarely shared in the friend’s households that we know.

It is clear that education just isn’t enough. If you were brought up being told to finish all the food on your plate or not, if you’re well educated on the effect of portion sizes and you understand how social and cultural influences, advertising, and mood can contribute to overeating, you may still fall into the trap of overeating.

Whilst it is important to encourage good habits when eating (removing distractions, eating slower), more practical strategies maybe have more impact. For example:

  • Eat from smaller plates and bowls
  • Unless batch cooking, try to avoid cooking more than you need
  • Avoid buying sharing bags or in bulk
  • Never supersize your meals
  • Avoid buffets