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That dish serves how many????

Posted by vicki l.

On vacation this week, my kids and I went to a restaurant near the ocean in Santa Cruz. We ordered relatively healthy things, but when the plates arrived, I couldn't believe what I saw. The portions were monstrous, more than we could possibly eat. The Caesar salad alone could have fed all three of us. We ended up leaving a lot on the plate (no fridge in the hotel), which was a terrible waste. But if we had eaten it all, we would all have terrible waists! Portion sizes at restaurants (not generally the high-end ones) have generally gotten bigger over the years, and contain about 60 percent more calories than the typical home-meal, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. So what does that mean? For one thing, ordering "just a salad" might be as bad or worse than what we typically consider unhealthy (like a hamburger) if it's large enough to serve three. If you're going to a restaurant that you know serves huge portions, plan to share -- or at least take some home. Better yet, go to a place that doesn't slop it on. You may get less for your money, but it probably will be a lot healthier for you and the environment.
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It's true what you're saying. There are so many restaurants that offer unbelievable portions (hello, Cheesecake Factory)! I think it should be standard for a server to warn a table before they order too much food so people can order entrees to share. The thing that is interesting to me is the social stigma based on the share (at least in LA), where the image of how much money you have is everything. So many people refuse to order less food or take it to go because they don't want their dinner guests or the waitstaff or whoever to think they can't afford it or need to have leftovers. It's craziness. I've seen so many people apologizing to the waitstaff for "taking up a table" because they just ordered an Ahi salad. To me, this is such an outrageous line of thought. You're going to take up much more of a table if you order huge portions of food you don't want and end up weighing 300 lbs., do you know what I'm saying?! I think it's a good rule of thumb to find out how big the portions will be, get a to go box immediately and throw half your entree in there (if no one wants to share) and if you're on vacation, insist on the split. Eventually, restaurants will get the idea and reasonable portions will reappear.
... although I get that it's not just an LA mindset -- probably NY, too (where I'm from). Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there's some of that, too, but the good restaurants around here often serve what seems like really skimpy portions (artfully presented, however), but are probably much more in line with what a true portion is (and certainly used to be). For a while, I was semi-addicted to a maple crunchy cereal thing from Trader Joe's. One day I looked at the portion size -- and it was half a cup!!!! What??? I was eating, I don't know, at least a cup, cup and a half, two on a good day. When I did the math on the carb/calorie thing, I was pretty shocked. I guess it comes down to this, though. When you're out and enjoying meal, enjoy and eat what feels right and good. Then eat wiser, smaller and healthier for the next few days, because, you know, it's can't always be about denying yourself culinary (or any other kind of) pleasure.
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