What’s Trending: Bigger is not always better

By: Paula Hendricks, special columnist
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Everything is big in America, from cars, houses grocery stores and purses, to food portions. Advertising tells us we get more for our money if we purchase the super-size.  Many people won’t even frequent a restaurant if the food servings are too small because they think they are not getting their money’s worth. American grocery stores are now more like warehouses selling food to stock up for a natural disaster. Who needs 48 bags of cookies or a pizza that won’t even fit in your oven?

Bring on the super-sized foods.

In restaurants, super-sized portions are typically the least expensive items: pizzas, pastas, potatoes, rice and breads - the high-carb foods.  Portions of meat, fish or chicken are expensive and you often have to look hard to find the protein mixed in the food dish. A serving size should not be a 24 oz. sugary coffee drink, a muffin the size of a small planet, a 2 lb. cowboy steak, a triple-decker burger, or even a salad delivered in a large serving bowl. I think it is time to lose the bigger is better mentality and overcome the temptation to order super-sized.

Portion control is out of control. 

Is it a coincidence that Americans’ body sizes are growing in unison with super-sized foods that are served on large plates with over-sized drinking glasses? Today’s dishes don’t even fit in a dishwasher anymore. There are many theories to the growth of the American girth, but I am certain super-sized portions play a significant role.

According to Dr. Brian Wansink, author of the book “Mindless Eating,” jumbo-sized meals served in restaurants are typically 250 percent larger than the normal-sized portion and since 1970, plates and glasses have increased 36 percent in size. He states that the bigger the plate, the more we put on it and the more we eat, mindlessly. 

Smaller Plate, Smaller Portion = Smaller Person.

It’s time we learn what food portions should look like, pick restaurants that offer smaller serving sizes, and only buy groceries that will last for a week.  Growing up, I remember being taught to eat meals that are no bigger than the palms of my hands cupped together, which was about the size of my stomach. 

The following information will give you some insight into how to be aware of super-sized traps so you can be a smart and savvy eater.

               - Throw out your big plates, bowls, and drinking glasses. A dinner plate should be no larger than 10”.  If it is, you are probably overeating.

               - Use a salad plate for your meal when home and order a protein-rich appetizer dish for your main meal when dining out.                                             -  At the restaurant, ask the server what your meal contains.  If it is loaded with high calorie carbs (potatoes, rice, or another starch), ask if you can replace it with spinach or a side salad (meatballs are delicious over spinach).

  • When ordering a salad, customize.  That “healthy” chicken salad you order may contain up to 2000 calories with croutons, noodles, and sugary dressings – enough food for the entire day. 
  • Avoid restaurant-style buffets – they can be food traps. They may be cost-effective, but it is not worth getting your money’s worth. 
  • Review the menu of a restaurant online before you arrive and mentally have a meal plan prepared. Don’t let your stomach overrule your brain – stick to it. 
  • Ask the restaurant to hold the bread or chips bowl, and if you allow yourself one slice, have it delivered with your salad or meal.
  • Don’t buy super-sized foods in grocery stores. The more you buy, the more you will eat, the bigger you will get. Remember: small plate, small portion, small person.

I’m ready to order – are you?