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Smaller portion meals will help fight obesity

Posted Apr 06 2010 9:00am 1 Comment


Large super-size portions are the end of the American diet!

Those massive portions of supersized meals are keeping America fat and also teaching Americans really negative ways of eating. The bottom line is you don’t need to eat a supersized meal to feel full.

Actually, if you eat real food, you’ll feel fuller faster than eating processed or engineered foods that are depleted of any nutrients.

I can never-ever finish more than a small portion of the food that is served to me when I travel for business to the U.S. I’m always amazed at how much food they serve and at what is considered a small size in America.

I’ve heard many North Americans who travel to Europe and particularly in France complain about the portion sizes and how they always feel hungry after they’ve eaten.

I usually add my two cents and tell them that the portion sizes of meals in France are very normal.

I’ve been to wedding in Tuscany where there were at least 8 courses, but each course was a very small portion … just enough to allow a discovery of food without stuffing you silly (now, after 8 courses, I did feel quite full, but you wouldn’t eat that much normally in Italy).

I fell on a great explanation on how the French diet is keeping French women slim while the American diet is making Americans fat, obese and sick.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again if most restaurants cut back their portion sizes by 30-40%, America would automatically go on a diet and lose tons of weight without having to try hard! I guess what I’m saying is that there should be mandatory portion control ruling placed in America to help reduce the portion size and help curb this huge obesity crisis.

>>> You’ll find this feature from dietician Karen Collins on MSNBC (published in 2007) quite telling:

Obesity is far less common in France than in the United States, and some researchers contend that smaller French portions are a key reason.

Some Americans might assume they will feel deprived with smaller portions, but cross-cultural studies suggest we might find portion control surprisingly easy if we adopted some French eating customs and philosophies.

The contrast in obesity between France and the U.S. is dramatic: 32 percent of American adults are obese compared to 11 percent of French adults. The French are more physically active than Americans, which may account for part of this weight difference, but smaller portions in France also lead to lower calorie consumption.

>>> Petite portions
Studies at Penn State University and Cornell University have demonstrated repeatedly that when we are served larger portions, we eat more. Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has completed several preliminary studies comparing portion sizes in Paris and Philadelphia. Rozin and colleagues set up comparisons of restaurants in the two cities, matching restaurants by location, price and type of food. The restaurants compared were either the same chain or parallel types, including fast food, Chinese, pizza, bistros and ice cream. Researchers weighed portions of similar foods served in each restaurant. In 10 out of 11 restaurants, French portions were smaller than Philadelphia portions by an average of 25 percent.

To compare the size of portions served in American and French homes, Rozin matched the popular U.S. cookbook, “Joy of Cooking,” with a similar French cookbook. Portion size of recipes overall was 25 percent larger in the U.S. cookbook with portions of meat dishes 53 percent larger. Only vegetable portions were smaller (by 24 percent) in the American cookbook compared to its French counterpart.


>>> Leisurely meals

One reason smaller portions seem to satisfy the French may be that despite eating less food, they spend more time eating it. In McDonald’s fast food restaurants, Rozin documented the French average lunchtime stay at 22.2 minutes compared to the U.S. visit at 14.4 minutes. A 2005 study found that although the French dinnertime has decreased in recent years, it now averages about 40 minutes. For many Americans, this may be surprisingly long.

Even if we are not ready to linger over meals, we can take lessons from French eating habits. First, we could begin by serving less food in order to eat less. Research shows that when we are served less food, we do not leave the table hungry. In Penn State studies, researchers served participants portions that were 25 percent smaller than what they ate at other times. The participants reported they were just as satisfied with the smaller portions as with the larger-sized meals.

Second, we should try to prolong a meal by serving food in several courses. The traditional French style of eating divides both lunch and dinner into several courses. This practice stretches mealtime, makes less food seem like more and gives the body time to achieve satiation. Some researchers suggest that eating slowly will help us better taste and savor food, creating more pleasure regardless of how much is eaten.

Try serving salad separately from the rest of the meal or offering fruit after a meal instead of more portions of meat. When eating out, realize that all-you-can-eat buffets — unheard of in Paris — may lead to excessive portions. Try ordering a healthy appetizer plus soup or salad. If you are served large portions you can pack some away immediately in a take-home box to reduce the chance you will absent-mindedly eat more than you intend.

I’d love to hear from as many readers on this topic, but I’d be quite curious to find out how non-Americans feel when they are presented with the large supersize plates in comparison to what they would eat in their home country.

>>> Do you also feel that the massive portion sizes served in America causing the obesity issue?

Source: French lessons: Eat petite, take your time

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Comments (1)
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I agree that people need to be more in tune with their own internal hungry/full levels and this takes time and can become habit over time with practice. Hara Hachi Bu is a Japanese phrase meaning "Eat until you are only 80% full." 

I directly work on a team with Dr. Brian Wansink who is the Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and a major contributor the 100 calorie snack pack. The idea behind the snack pack (which most people aren't aware of) is something called the "mindless margin."  If we cut out 100 calories a day, we lose 10 lbs a year.  This works in the opposite direction as well increasing your weight 10 extra pounds a year.

Dr. Brian Wansink worked very closely with the Mindless Team to design the ideal dinnerware, called Thinware,™ taking into account the size, shape, color, dimensions, and quality encouraging smaller food portions while leaving a person feeling completely satiated. Very interesting research was done by Wansink described in his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”  The book is entertaining, funny and is the premise of our companies, and our weight loss plan  It sounds like you think along the same lines and would appreciate some sound information with real solutions.

"The best diet is the one you don't know you're on."-Dr. Brian Wansink.

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