Nutrition News: Downsize Me: A Look At Portion Control

It appears to be true for people of all sizes and educational levels:  When we are presented with larger portions, we eat more…sometimes 30 to 50 percent more, according to research presented in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Even when we are not hungry and the food is not that good, we eat more when given larger portions. For example, a study on moviegoers who had just eaten lunch and were given stale popcorn showed that the ones given a large bucket ate 51 percent more than those given the medium-sized container.

Is it the revenge of the clean plate club that makes us eat more when served larger servings? The authors of this review offer two other explanations:

1. What we see as “usual” servings in restaurants or other eating situations can easily become the norm of what we eat, even if it is more than our bodies require.

2. All of us—not just those who are overweight—tend to underestimate how much more we are really eating when we are served large portions. The problem, say experts, is the size of the meal, not the size of the person.The answer, say these researchers, is to eliminate large packages, large dinnerware and large servings from our environment. Buy food in smaller packages or divide bargain sizes into individual serving sizes when you get home. Order two appetizers instead of a full dinner at a restaurant. Replace larger dishes at home with smaller sizes.

Will smaller portions gradually lead to downsized appetites and better control of our collective weight? It’s at least a step in the right direction.