Portion Size Matters

I am not one to count calories, fat grams or anything of the like, but that’s because the one thing I do try to stay mindful of is portion size (and only eating enough to feel full). But in today’s “super-sized” society (i.e. the United States) it’s harder than ever to determine if your portion size is even on par or not. Check this out:

According to French Kids Eat Everything, there was “A scientific study in which two researchers (one French, one American) weighed servings of identical meals at McDonald’s restaurants in Paris and Philadelphia. The serving sizes were wildly different: a medium-size serving of fries at McDonald’s in Philadelphia was 72 percent bigger than at McDonald’s in Paris.”

Let’s hope they aren’t charging the same price, ha ha ha. All kidding aside though, what’s up with that? And there’s more:

According to the CDC, over the last 50 years right here in America “The size of a hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces.” And some wonder why “The average American is 26 pounds heavier than in 1950. [And] about one-third of us are overweight or obese and that number is projected to hit nearly 50% by 2030.”


One contributing factor, according to research and Michael Pollan, is that instead of using our internal cues to know when to stop eating most of us “allow external, and usually visual, cues to determine how much we [should] eat.” So many of us are likely not listening to our guts and instead just continuing to eat until our plates are clean, the package is empty, or the TV show is over. When was the last time you left some food on your plate simply because you were starting to feel full? I am the first to admit…it’s easier said than done!

So aside from ensuring I eat a variety of real, whole foods (including full-fat dairy), keeping my portion sizes in check is at the top of my priority list. When our family documented and photographed everything we ate for a week last year there were a lot of comments indicating some of our meals didn’t look like enough food. Is that because people were comparing our plates to the super-sized portions of today or the way things used to be (and still are in France)?

I personally think real food is much more filling than the processed stuff so it doesn’t take as much for me to feel full. Plus when I do overeat, and it does happen occasionally (I am human after all!), it really is not a good feeling. And the other great thing about real food filling you up nicely is that it prevents all those crazy spikes in hunger and energy levels throughout the day that people often experience otherwise. Goodbye afternoon crash!

So don’t be fooled by what society is telling you is the right amount of food…eat what’s right for you. You can always go back for more, and believe it or not it’s okay to feel hungry in-between meals on occasion! Here are some things to try:

  • The next time you’re at a restaurant split an entrée with someone at your table.
  • Prepare your food on an appetizer plate instead of a standard sized dinner plate.
  • Eat more slowly to allow yourself time to feel full before going back for more.
  • Stop eating when you feel full…don’t worry about cleaning your plate or finishing the last bite!

What are your thoughts about today’s portion sizes? How did they get so out of control?

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133 thoughts on “Portion Size Matters”

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  1. Totally agree! Processed food makes it extremely difficult to stop eating. The calories are packed in there with added sugar and fat, that we hardly get satiated with a proper amount of food.

  2. I switched to a smaller plate about a year ago and it has made a world of difference. I do not feel over stuffed when I finish a meal instead I feel full and satisfied. I also gave up soda in May and feel so much better and no longer crave sweets the way I used to.

  3. Do you think portion control plates are helpful, healthy and realistic? We eat very healthy but I love food, a lot, and have a hard time stopping sometimes. I have heard rules like – 1 cup of carb, X oz of protien and lots of veggies for dinner. But short of bringing measuring cups and scales to the table, I thought the plate might be a good idea. Your thoughts?

  4. I can’t tell you how many servers look at us in surprise because they don’t think we have enough food. Yet, we don’t leave the restaurant hungry! We have been sharing entrees since college (of course, back then it was to save money), so now it is second nature..

  5. to eat, but eat healthy, is the key all foods are good for you but with everything moderation is the key, and get active.

  6. We call it “recreational eating” when you are full but it’s just sooooo good you can’t stop shoving ‘more food in your mouth. Haha! I’m still suffering and trying to recover.

    Stop eating when you are not hungry – so simple yet so hard!

  7. What would be really nice in restaurants is if you had a choice in entree size. Restaurant owners say people expect enough food for two or three meals when they eat out. I don’t. I like to have just a decent, average amount.

  8. Portion and plate size are important! My husband and I try to divide the food in half – saving half for lunch or dinner the next day, Then I plate the food in the kitchen – sort of like as if I were dining out. This usually (not always) will prevent us from going back for seconds.

  9. Great ideas about portions but as a cafe owner may I say that splitting an entree is a pain! We are in business and I notice more and more restaurants are not allowing it as it actually costs money. How about you take half home to eat later?

    1. I love it when restaurants offer different portion sizes. Cafes that offer half-sandwiches, or dinner places that offer “half-plates” of the pasta meals. They can charge more than “half” the full-size entree price (which is fair – the same effort goes into cooking and plating for the smaller portion), so they get more than they would if I split with my table-mate, but I don’t have to worry about over-eating or carrying a box out, if I don’t want to.

  10. I ALWAYS want more! For me, I think subconscienciously knowing how healthy our meals are, I do take those extra few bites or second helping….. It’s tough when the food is SOOOoooooo good! :) I need to learn to stop when my plate is clean.

  11. Portion size is absolutely key! I started using a timer when I eat and only take a bite every minute. I’m full on 1/4 of the food I was eating.

  12. It does go the other way as well though. I’ve been accused of being an over-eater and that’s a bit frustrating when I eat a healthy (real food) full meal and am legitimately hungry enough for another a couple hours later. I have high metabolism and often feel sick because of not getting enough food. It runs in my family. My children (1 and 3) also eat quite a lot (of real food) and I get many comments about that as well. I never tell them they have to eat everything given to them. We just truly require more food for survival. :)