Portion Control: How Much Do We Need to Eat?

Christopher Pitts

In F&B, Food Musings Posted

Upon my return from a three-week culinary tour in Italy, I stood on the scales and faced the aftermath with a grimace. Putting on 3kg gets you wondering if each of those tiramisus and additional bread baskets were really worth it.

Rather than own up to my self-indulgent gluttony, I’ve decided to pass the blame onto each and every restaurant that served me. They chose the portion size, so why shouldn’t they take the fall for my pants getting snug? What, in fact, is a reasonable portion size?

An average meal at a restaurant consists of three courses: a starter, a main and a dessert. At a typical chain restaurant in the US, you’re looking at a meal that could jump well into the 3,000-plus calorie range for that three-course set. Then again, a three-course meal at a place with sharing plates might leave you feeling hungry and debating where to go for dinner number two.

There must be a sweet spot that’s in the middle of feeling full and yet not stuffed.

Years ago, I read that a properly portioned meal should consist of 25 bites. We’ll not get into ounces and grams – just your average fork size. This seems reasonable to me; while I’ve never actually counted each and every bite during a meal, I’ve eaten meals that consist of courses in the double-digits and can attest that they were way more than 25.

How do we control the urge to clean our plates? Hadn’t our mothers so viciously barked at us for not thinking of the poor farmers harvesting this bounty? To me, it’s about pacing. Order what you like and reconfirm with your server whether the food is enough for the amount of people at the table. No one should know the dishes better than him or her when it comes to portion size. Feel free to under order; unless you arrived five minutes before closing, the kitchen will still be able to cook more food for you if you suddenly decide you do want that side of fries.

“A properly portioned meal should consist of 25 bites.”

How do we control the urge to clean our plates? Hadn’t our mothers so viciously barked at us for not thinking of the poor farmers harvesting this bounty? To me, it’s about pacing. Order what you like and reconfirm with your server whether the food is enough for the amount of people at the table. No one should know the dishes better than him or her when it comes to portion size. Feel free to under order; unless you arrived five minutes before closing, the kitchen will still be able to cook more food for you if you suddenly decide you do want that side of fries.

Over the years portions have grown larger, and not because people are hungrier. People love value, and deals like “15% more” or “30% off” make our eyes light up like a kid in a candy store. We should remember that more is not always better in terms of calorie consumption. Restaurants only feed us what we want, and we’re to blame for that. So rather than jump on the scales looking for a scapegoat, stand in front of the mirror and look at the real culprit.

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