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Are Dietitians Ever Going to Stop Talking about Food Portions?

My husband and I decided to treat ourselves, without the toddler mess, with a nice, romantic, upscale dinner.

We headed to the city to one of my friend’s favorite fancy restaurants and ordered the three course meal: appetizer, entree, and dessert.

The appetizer portion was skimpy, “it’s ok, it’s just the appetizer,” I thought. But when the large white entree dishes arrived with seemingly miniature food in the center, I thought we were being ripped off. The portion was too small. I told myself “I can’t imagine we’re paying $$$ for that! This is not going to fill me up!”

You can imagine what my 6’2″ husband with a rumbling stomach was thinking.

I start eating slowly, of course, to make it last as much as possible. To my surprise, I did get full. Actually, by the time we finished dessert, I was stuffed to the point of discomfort. I couldn’t believe that.

It hit me then how accustomed we are to plates full of food. If a dietitian who talks about over-sized servings 7 days a week can be be fooled, how do I expect others to realize how portions have exponentially multiplied?

I think most of us need something as strong as an electric shock to wake us up from the reality we’re living! Until then, dietitians are not going to stop talking about portions.

When the amount was small, I was forced to eat slowly. I was also forced to deliberately taste and enjoy the pleasure of every bite I could possibly take. Both are strategies to manage weight.

Scarcity means superiority. Aren’t diamonds a good example?

A small portion can play games on our minds–good games for the sake of our waists! Scarce is better, tastier, and fancier. No body thinks soda refills or a heap load basket of fries are that fancy. Huh?

In fact, in a competition show on the Food Network, the judge marked a dessert down because the portion was just a little too big. The culinary expert thinks a good dessert is one that makes you wish there was a little more, not one that makes you want to throw whatever is left in your plate across the room because it’s just causing too much indigestion, or guilt.

For many of us, quitting eating out is not an option and restaurants compete who’s got the best deal in town, which is–in this economy–the cheapest bulkiest meal. Still, there are ways to make the most of your money without making the worst of your belly!

  • Order a half meal or the lunch portion. Many restaurants will let you do that.
  • Order an appetizer for dinner. Have you ever had a Cheesecake Factory appetizer?
  • Pack half your meal BEFORE you start. How many times did you end up taking “one more bite” until you almost finished your plate, then decided it’s not worth it to take the rest home so you ended up finishing it all?
  • Share an entree with your dinner companion(s). And that will really save you money.

What’s your strategy?

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  • Shazia December 30, 2009, 11:13 pm

    Great article and tips! It really is amazing how large the portions are here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD December 30, 2009, 11:41 pm

      Thanks Shazia. Yes, watch out for portions!

  • Laura Minighini December 30, 2009, 11:37 pm

    I enjoyed reading your article! It has some great points and gives excellent advice to whoever is struggling with weight loss and change of lifestyle. I will look for your posts on Twitter!

    Laura Minighini

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD December 30, 2009, 11:44 pm

      Thank you Laura. I will keep them coming!

  • Fadia December 31, 2009, 1:49 pm

    Thanks Nour. I know it’s really annoying to get a small portion for big bucks. I must say that although small portions are healthier some places are really not worth the buck. 3 seared scallops and a little grilled veggies for 28-40 dollars? cmon!! I have done the pack half your plate before you start technique and you really do get satisfied (not totally full but we really never should be anyway )

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD January 3, 2010, 7:09 pm

      You make two great points Fadia.

      1. You don’t want to reach the point of stuffed. Your goals is to not be hungry anymore.
      2. It’s cheaper and healthier to eat at home. Instead of paying so much money for something you can make at home, look up some recipes and be creative with meals. Gourmet cooking is becoming easy.

      Thank you.

      Nour