We live in a world where people are getting bigger, not just taller but more overweight too. And alongside this the number of restaurants and food outlets are rising, meaning that many are able to grab what they like when they like. However, whether it’s confusion caused by too much choice or a distorted view of what a meal portion should be, it seems that we’re definitely piling more on our plates. The question is whether you are eating too much?
The Last Supper goes large
What is a good normal sized portion of food? Well, according to two researchers from Cornell University and Virginia Wesleyan College, who research consumer behavior, our perception has changed hugely over the years. The two revealed their findings of a quirky study that looked at art over a 1000 years and 52 religious pieces of art depicting The Last Supper.
It seems that the feast has got a whole lot bigger over the years, with the main dish increasing in size by 69% and the bread by 23%. And to make sure it can all be eaten the plates have also grown in size by 66%.
Bigger bowl bigger serving
So, if our perceptions of portions are becoming somewhat changed or distorted, how do bigger plates affect our eating habits, it at all? Well, according to Cornell University researchers they do when it comes to mindless eating where, “having salient, accurate visual cues can play an important role”.
In this study, 40 grad students were invited to a Super Bowl party, believing they were going to be asked about food and commercials in a party environment. Each student was taken to one of two exact same buffets; the only difference being the size of the bowl they were given. The food they chose was weighed and the leftovers recorded too.
The result? The bigger bowl group took 53% more food and ate 56% more than the smaller bowl students.
We eat more of the ‘healthy’ foods but are they really ‘healthy’?
But it’s okay to load up on healthy food right? Well, the question you first need to ask is whether they really are ‘healthy’. It seems that often people will end up eating the same amount of calories by increasing the amount of what they consider to be a healthier option.
A University of Ulster commissioned study in Northern Ireland asked 186 participants to take a portion of coleslaw. One of the two coleslaw bowls was labeled ‘healthier’ and one was labeled ‘standard’. Participants served themselves more of the ‘healthier’ version when in fact, both coleslaws had the same amount of calories.
How much is enough?
Plates are getting bigger and perceptions are changing, not to mention the fact that it’s easier to get the foods we want, even if we don’t necessarily need them. On top of this, clever marketing can lead us to eating more than we think we are. So, how much food is enough?
The answer lies in the palm of your hand. Looking at how much should be on your plate, a rough guide is the same amount of protein as the size and thickness of your palm, which is say about 100-150 g of meat. For carbs, the same amount as the size of your clenched fist is about right, whilst you should be aiming for two cupped hands’ worth of non-starchy veg.
Next month we’ll look at how the amount you eat could be imprinted in your DNA and the field of nutrigenomics, as well as hands tips on how to cut down your portion size.