Portions and Plate Sizes

Towards the beginning of my working life, I spent a few months working for the US distributor of Limoges dinnerware. Some discussions of portion size, and the relationship between plate size, fill level, and perceptions of satiety reminded me of the following:

Standard dinnerware size/capacity ranges

  • Plates
    • 4-5" -- bread and butter plate
    • 7-7.5" -- salad plate
    • 8-8.5" -- luncheon plate
    • 9.5" -- European dinner plate
    • 10.5" -- US dinner plate
    • 12" -- charger (underplate and/or place-setting "show" plate)
    Plate rims may range from 1/2" (bread and butter) to 2" (dinner plate)
    The food surface of a plate is considered to be that between the rims
  • Bowls
    • 4" -- 1/2 c -- (rimless) fruit/dessert bowl
    • 5" -- 1-1.5 c -- (rimless) cereal bowl
    • 9" -- 1 c -- (rimmed) soup bowl
  • Cups and Mugs
    • 2 oz -- Turkish coffee cup
    • 4 oz -- demitasse cup
    • 5 oz -- "standard" (bowl-bottomed) cup
    • 8 oz -- "can" (straight sided) cup
    • 10 oz -- tall footed bowl-bottomed cup, standard can mug
    • 12 oz -- "breakfast" cup
It's kind of interesting to note that Americans tend towards larger plate sizes; also, we tend to mound up our plates with pyramids of food. Many of us have rimless, or relatively narrow-rimmed, dinnerware -- leaving more space that we feel we must fill with food. Some of us even have dinnerware sets with larger, or higher-capacity, dishes.
A related observation is the degree to which restaurant dinnerware is oversized, particularly in "casual dining" chains. I believe the last time I ordered out, the plate was easily 14" in diameter, with a 2.5" rim -- the food surface was almost the size of an entire RIMMED (European) dinner plate!
On the other extreme, serving a meal on a salad plate tends to present the idea that the serving is being deliberately sized down. This brings to mind the "nouvelle cuisine" of the mid 1980's, in which very small servings of ultrafresh-and-hard-to-find foods were plated with small amounts of innovative sauces. (Derisively referred to as "twenty dollars for two petite peas and a baby carrot on a plate drizzled with a teaspoon of balsamic raspberry kiwi sauce" -- which was literally the case at several tony restaurants.)
Then again, elegant plating can create a tempting presentation with a lot of "white space". Many TV chefs will decoratively drizzle a teaspoon of sauce or gravy on a plate before plating the food itself, which only takes up a quarter of that plate. The artistic design of drizzle, food, and overdrizzle creates an appetizing presentation of a small portion, without the association of volume deprivation.

In the end, one needs to find the key that works for one’s self: smaller plates, rimmed plates, larger rims, decorative plating, a combination of the above… or something else.

T! You’ve hit the nail on the head!!! Platesize/Portionsize!
Then we have the emotional size and the "don’t hurt your host’s/relatives feelings size."
It’s amazing how the way we’re raised and the cultural standards of not “insulting a the cook” or “keeping peace” in the family touches on our very health!
Now, we need to learn to court our own health and at the same time keep peace with cultural values/family traditions etc… yes, “court” as in find ways for our minds to be attractive to the “plating/portionsize” that fits with our health needs. hmm… “who will I marry?” the large plate with drizzle in design? or the Petite plate with pretty,flirty petals? :slight_smile:
We need to find a way to make these thoughts attractive and sell it hard to our minds for our bodies sake!!! We need to talk and act like we would as if we were seriously dating a prospective mate! Fall in love with the right size plate for our healths’ sake!!! ahhhhhh… if only it were so easy to get our fickle minds wrapped into nutrition when we were younger and not set in our ways!
It would be great if we could get a nutritionist,a chef and an artist together for the sake of teaching us how to love our bodies with the right size of plates and the just right size of portion:)
We so need to bring these topics to the surface of not only diabetics; but everyone in need of a new mate of plates and portions:)
Huggles and keep up the great work on bringing it out here!

Debb, the flip side is, do I want to spend my money on a lot of junk food that is very bad for me, or do I want to spend my money on a smaller amount of higher quality food that is good for me. It’s amazing how much tastier a home-grown tomato is than one out of those cello containers at the store, or how much more filling a mixed-green salad is than iceberg lettuce, or how much more texture a whole-grain or soy pasta has than a semolina pasta. I’m inspired by the natural colors, varieties of tastes, new combinations of old foods…
Now that it’s getting warmer, I’m more able to deal with meal-sized salads. I have to eat these in mixing bowls because I can’t get enough greens into normal-oversized-dinnerware bowls – but they’re healthy because I’m getting three or four servings of veggies with very little fat and a lot of taste :slight_smile: (My standard “meal” salad: 3-4 oz mixed greens, about 3.5-4 oz grape tomatoes, about 3 oz carrots, about 1.5 oz – 1/3 large – red bell pepper, and either one whole scallion, chopped, or about 1.5 oz thinly-sliced onion. Toss the greens with 1 t extra-virgin olive oil and 1 T balsamic vinegar before adding in the other veggies. Add freshly-ground black pepper, a pinch or two of mint, oregano, or dill, and an ounce or two of protein: hard-boiled egg whites, low-sodium deli turkey breast, low-fat feta cheese, part-skim or fat-free mozzarella, etc.)

At the peak of silverbrite (Alaskan salmon) season, I also like to microwave and chill hand-seasoned salmon fillets to use as the basis of a high-protein lunch or dinner: cover the surface of a dinner plate with mixed greens or romaine lettuce spears (the edges can stick out over the rim), create an inner bed of thinly-sliced tomato with sliced bell peppers or baby carrots sticking out like sun rays, plate about 3 oz chilled salmon fillet in the center of it all, and cover with 1/2 c fat-free yogurt dip/dressing (fat-free yogurt, onion powder, ground white pepper, dill weed, oregano). These salads will stand up to any whole-grain bread product served with them. It’s all about color, design, and taste… and taking the time to enjoy the experience.

I know. When I was first diagnosed, I was so afraid of a lot of things because of their sodium content, so I went back to a lot of first principles: whole foods. I had gotten away from these because my mother and sister hated them, and because they were very difficult to find where I was living. I was pleasantly surprised to find that food technology has made many of the “weird hippie foods” of the 1970’s into foods that taste great and behave much more like mainstream foods… except that they are healthier.
A lot of cookbooks address low sodium (usually not low enough) or low carb or diabetes-friendly, but not multiple issues at the same time. I’ve never been afraid of experimenting in the kitchen, and it in many ways I find it a creative release.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have several very different food influences in my life, giving me the confidence to draw from all of them to come up with new recipes and preparations that are more appropriate for my own health and well-being.