Most restaurant chefs are serving up portions that are two to four times bigger than the government’s recommended serving sizes.
They know these large amounts are super sizing their diners, but they believe customers expect big platefuls of food when eating out, according to a survey of 300 chefs presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society. Some say one reason is that it costs little more for the restaurant to add more to a plate.
What can you do?
- Before going to a restaurant expect that you will have a meal to take home.
- When a meal is served cut it in half to start with and plan to take eat half at the restaurant and take home half.
Restaurant meals larger than home meals
A typical restaurant meal has at least 60% more calories than the average meal made at home, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. And Americans purchased 209 meals a person from restaurants last year, both eating at restaurants and buying takeout, NPD says.
Portions served at restaurants have steadily increased since the 1970s in tandem with the rise in obesity rates, says Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University.
Researchers at Penn State and Clemson University in South Carolina surveyed chefs at several national culinary meetings. Many were executive chefs with degrees in culinary arts. One-third worked in elegant restaurants; others in more casual eateries, including fast-food places.
Almost all believe that the amount of food served in restaurants influences how much people eat and that big portions are hard on people watching their weight.
Overall, 60% of chefs serve steaks that are 12 ounces or larger. A serving of cooked meat is three ounces, according to the government’s dietary guidelines.
Most dish up one to two cups of pasta with a meal; a serving is a half-cup. When it comes to vegetables such as steamed broccoli, chefs are closer to a serving with a half-cup.
“Not everybody is a plate cleaner, but as the size of the steak increases, you are probably going to eat more,” says Julie Flood, a Penn State doctoral student.
- 60% say if customers are served a huge amount of food, it’s the diners’ responsibility to eat the appropriate amount.
- 90% say customers would notice if the restaurant decreased portions by 10 to 15%
- 60% say customers would not notice a 10% to 15% decrease in portioning.
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