On Restaurant Portions: "More Room for Dessert?"

I was just reading this article from Knowledge@Wharton, titled “Serving Up Smaller Restaurant Portions: Will Consumers Bite?”

A part of me was truly disgusted (reminded me of “Super Size Me” at times). Indeed portions in restaurants these days are ridiculous and it’s only ironic that the change in portion sizes (down from their current levels) is frowned upon by restaurant chain investors and customers alike.

These were some of the pearls in the article:
-We hate to throw [food] out, so we just keep eating. We value those things more than we do the long-term health consequences." These attitudes "are driving us towards larger portions and eating more. ‘Bigger is better’ is a very American belief.

-Just the mind set that something is going to be healthy turned off a sizeable [number of diners]. We taste what we think. If we believe it’s healthy, it’s not going to be good.

What are your thoughts about this whole deal? Restaurant portion sizes, carb/calorie counting, etc.

Link to the complete article:

I was reading a similar article in the NY Times. It made a good point, the cost of the food on your plate is a fairly small portion of the cost of the dish. So just because something is a half portion, doesn’t mean you can charge half price for it and still maintain your profit margins.

I know I’ve thought that, setting in a restaurant and seeing a dish selling for $8.99 and a half portion selling for $4.99. I guess the smart move there is to order the full size and take half of it home. Of course how many of us can resist just eating the whole thing?

What’s horrific about all of this is that some restaurant meals are over 2000 calories!!!

OMG… No wonder we have such an epidemic of obesity!

It pains me to see young children consuming entire adult size portions in restaurants.

On the one hand, it’s frustrating not to be able to order a reasonable portion so that I’m not tempted to overeat. On the other hand, if I’m paying 3-4 times what I would pay for a similar meal prepared at home, it’s nice to be able to take home the leftovers. That way, I can an extra meal (or even two) out of the deal.

And just as scary for those of us battling diabetes, many restaurant entrées contain more than 2,000 mg sodium in one main dish. People with high blood pressure (nearly 3/4 of people with diabetes) should have no more than 1,500 mg sodium daily! And for any of us without high blood pressure but planning to live a long time with diabetes, it certainly doesn’t hurt to limit sodium.

Fortunately, there are some ongoing committees at USDA and FDA looking into a lower daily sodium intake number, which would eventually roll out into packaged foods and restaurants.

And don’t get me started on trans fats, which increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol), and worsen insulin resistance!

I went to cheesecake factory a couple weeks ago, it’s nuts to see how much they put on a single plate.

Sometimes tri-media advertisements (TV, Billboards, etc) does not help too. Reminds me of a TV show special of a chef Jamie Oliver, when he ambitiously wanted to “retrain” the eating habits of his country starting from children from grade school. It’s educating children about healthy eating, taking in consideration ingredients, food portoning, and preparation. Emphasizing that healthy eating is synonimous to delicious and flavorful dishes. But it is such a massive endeavor! A similar project will be highly recommended here.

That must be where the saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, came from. I do not understand how a Person(especially a Diabetic)can willingly eat so much. They are just stretching their stomachs more, most likely putting their sugars out of whack for a long amount of time, adding extra weight if they are not Big on exercise, plus raising bad cholesterol and blood pressure, etc.

Oh poohy, the food doesn’t get wasted if you take it home and eat it the next day or offer it to someone else for a snack later. Usually I have a salad with grilled chicken or pork or beef but on a recent trip to Toronto, I ordered a Montreal Smoked Meat on rye(fries came with it even though I didn’t want them) and a regular Iced Tea(we never order desert). I ate 1/2 of the sandwich, 5 fries and 1/2 of my drink because that is where I felt comfortable(I think it is a waste of money to feel nausea from eating too much). I asked the Waiter to put the rest in a container for me to take to our hotel room for later which was okay with him.

I do admit to having 2 plates of food when we go to a Chinese Buffet(which isn’t often). :stuck_out_tongue: I normally eat the veg/meat selections and fruit dishes. Their plates seem smaller than many Restaurants. I still think that they have the MSG in their food or perhaps it’s just the ton of sugar and salt. Why else does it taste so Good?? :smiley:

Food commercials and ads don’t make me hungry and I don’t crave the foods that they are offering. I’m not sure why.

I love the occasional piece of cheesecake but I guess I will never go to the Cheesecake Factory. It sounds dangerous. :slight_smile:

I agree that Restaurants and other food outlets should stop piling so much food on the plates and leave their prices reasonable. Not a Big feat. They are harming their present and future Customers.

I wish the restaurants had a low carb menus so those of us with diabetes can have dessert. (sugar free of course)

When I look at a menu, one of my first thoughts is “how will that be leftover?”, because I can never eat a whole meal, and unless I’m sharing it, I will be eating it for a few more meals.

I don’t mind the large portions, it just means I don’t have to plan my lunch the next day because I will have half or more of it leftover to take home. Sometimes I do wish we could order off the children’s menus or senior menus because they do have smaller servings. I will have to wait another few years before they let me do that.

I think most restaraunts have a long way to go in terms of portion sizes, and general healthiness.

What really gets me - when restaurants don’t list carbohydrates and no one there knows! One of my (formerly) favorite places to get a wrap only lists Calories and Fat, nothing else (not even serving size). So, how am I supposed to know if their jalapeno-cilantro salsa is really loaded with sugar and fat? Since there’s no way to know, I no longer eat there… as often :slight_smile:

“Nutrition Transparency” would help most Americans with their health. Those who aren’t concerned wouldn’t really be affected, because they aren’t looking for the info, regardless.

Anyway, that’s my gripe with the restaurants these days. I want more facts, about the smaller servings… please :slight_smile:

I think those of us who count carbs are much more conscious of what a reasonable portion actually is! I’m aware that my food intake has decreased as I’ve gotten older, but I still think I was eating way more than I needed to, not to mention, as a vegetarian, way too many carbs. It seems normal to me now to put the right amount of food on my plate and not to have seconds.

For my 60th birthday my family took me to a very special place called Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The chef is Alice Waters who started the fresh/local/slow food revolution in California. Needless to say the food was wonderful but hardly cheap! My niece took home a " doggy bag" of largely meat (I’m a vegetarian, she is not). As we got into the car in front of the restaurant a middle aged homeless woman asked us for help. My niece looked at her take out container and then handed it to me to give the homeless woman. I wonder if she is a “foodie” who purposely locates outside of Chez Panisse?

Here’s my take as a person who has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years.

  1. Who said you had to eat it all? Are we incapable of asking for a “to go” box and taking 1/2 of it home with us?
    More and more people are halving their meals when they get them and putting them in boxes or setting them aside to take home or leave. If you are incapable of that, ask for a child’s or senior portion…much smaller and usually cheaper.

2.I have several friends and also customers who will take an enormous amount of salt and douse the 1/2 of their meal that they don’t want with salt…thus making them unable to eat it. Yes they pay for the entire meal, but they are eating more healthy.

  1. Are you aware that you can order “how” you want it, and how much you want…IF you do it in a kind and respectful manner, not going in and making demands during the peak meal time? We eat at 7:00, later than most in our area, I ask for steamed vegetables, (nuked, actually) no butter or salt put on them, I ask for a 4 oz portion of meat, but I will take 6 and give the 2 oz to the dog; I don’t want a potatoe, I don’t want bread, if my dining companions do, I ask that they keep it at the other end of the table. If asked about dessert…I ask for a small fruit serving, which is about the same price as a piece of pie, if they don’t have that, I pass. I am a big girl, and I can control what I eat…OR as someone has said, I save my carbs for a portion of dessert, maybe splitting a piece of pie with a friend, asking if they have a no-sugar added pie…and not eating the crust.

Are we adults, or are we little children who have to throw fits when we eat out? You decide for yourself. As for me, I eat out a lot it’s part of my job, and I have had to learn to deal wit portion sizes, cooking practices and how to get what I want how I want it.

Goodness, as far as listing the carbs on food on a menu, yes, it would be helpful to us, but are you willing to pay for the additional price to pay the person who is doing the counting, AND can you be assured that they knew what they were doing. I would rather do it myself, thank you.

There is an inherent danger in espousing the attitude of “we are all big boys and girls, and should know which decisions to make about everything…” To me, such attitudes allow room for companies which are irresponsible with their nutrient and genetic modification of foods to get away with endangering millions of ignorant, and well meaning individuals, into poor choices. Such food choices as salads, and fruit or yoghurt may come to some people as the “healthy, obvious choice,” but many of these so called companies under the guise of a “restaurant with fresh made food,” put untold amounts of sugar and fat in these meal choices.

People all the time say “I eat healthy, I eat at P.F. Chang’s.” Yet, have you seen the nutritional content of their food? I haven’t seen ONE dish, under 500 calories. Their seemingly “healthiest” dish has 2,000 calories – the total amount of calories that the USDA says the “average American” should consume in a day. If you just ate half of that, and doggie bagged the other, you would still be consuming 1,000 calories in just one meal!

Consumers are VERY impressionable people. At restaurants, tricks such as ordering half a meal, getting a doggie bag, or even a kids sized meal… (like with the example I mentioned above) are MOOT. Did any of you know that the biggest consumers of protein bars, sports drinks, and ‘health’ shakes are NOT athletes, but severely overweight people? Marketing companies have now gone out of their way to market these things as healthy alternatives to these kinds of people because they realized they were more their target audience, than atheletes… but, for a couch potato who doesn’t get off his keister to go exercise, they are anything but! All that stuff turns to immediate fat, and high blood sugars, and more insulin issues.

The reality is that more and more restaurants and food manufacturers are marketing to people as though their food is healthy, and manageable in portions (when it is clearly NOT), and more and more Americans with their jobs are eating out, every day, and not making their meals. This is the nature of our capitalistic society… work our people to death until they have no time to even spend with their families, and spouse, much less on eating healthy and exercising. There HAS to be something done. There HAS to be something done because the cheapest foods are those calorically expensive foods, and we are an increasingly poorer nation with people becoming highly overweight because all they can afford are the huge ■■■ portions at Perkins, or Denny’s, or the dollar burgers at Burger King.

With restaurants (which are nothing but classed-up fast food/junk food joints, for the most part), it’s an addictive, vicious cycle with people… The same as it is with cigarrettes and alcohol… Should we let everyone be big boy and girls, and give in to no alcohol regulations, no cigarrette, no gun regulations at all? I mean, how bad does it have to get? We are in danger, as a society… Many other countries do not have the problems we do… We’re becoming a nation of uneducated porkers because even the “healthy” foods are NOT healthy. There HAVE to be standards for everything. I think people have the right to know what it is they are putting in their body, so they can make a more educated decision… and not think they are getting a healthy meal because they only ate half of it… When in reality, it was a 1,000 calorie bomb! Restaurants make their food addicting to make people keep coming back… It’s a mine field. People should have tools to deal with it… and if they still wanna eat the 1,000 calorie bomb, then that’s their choice.

I mean, that’s what they always said about cigarrettes “we’re all grown up boys and girls, and it’s not addictive… if it’s bad for you, just quit.” Sure… Like it’s soooo easy for so many people. It’s not… and neither is making healthy food choices, or thinking you are making them when you are not.

While I don’t think all restaurants are bad, MOST restaurants out there, are chain restaurants… which are classier versions of fast food joints. It’s all the same CRAP, and all bad for you. People need tools, and regulations, so that places aren’t just gratuitiously making 3,000+ calorie salads and passing them off as healthy,and no one knows cus they don’t even have a frigging calorie count to look at!

I guarantee that in 50 years, all of you will be bitching and whining about how bad these people are, and how they have ruined our health… Just like the cigarette makers.

I had heard on TV months back that the chain resturants will soon be required to list nutriional info on menus. Is this something that is suppose to happen in all areas?

Yes… it’s federal, I believe. It was part of Healthcare reform… it’s coming, I’m just not sure when. I think it’s just calories, though… not everything.

Manny - couldn’t get to the article as you have to be a subscriber.

It’s always been a bit surprising to me that restaurants don’t recognize that massive portions decreases the likelihood that dessert will be ordered, resulting in lower revenues and profits. I am equally surprised that more of the wait staff does not suggest a take-away box at the beginning of a meal. It could be something along the lines of, “We’re excited about our food, so the portions can be a little big. We can always send you home with a box and that way you will have room for one of our fabulous desserts!”

My late teens found me desperately poor and a T1 diabetic trying go gain back 30 pounds I lost while in DKA. The result has been a tendency to eat everything on my plate, so a take-away box suggestion from the wait staff would help me fight that tendency.

Here in the Caribbean, the thought of having carb counts available is a laughable concept. I just have to do the best I can in guessing and then keep on testing, testing, testing.

Fair Winds,