The New York Times’ health blog, Well, has a spectacularly dumb post up about restaurant portions. It turns out that most chefs are rather ignorant of what the United States Department of Agriculture considers to be appropriate portion sizes. A study recently published in Obesity Magazine (sidebar: the phrase “Obesity Magazine” makes us giggle and giggle and giggle. Maybe it is because we’re exhausted, but whatever! Funny!) asked 300 chefs about portion sizes. It turns out that most chefs are serving what they consider to be “regular-sized” meat and pasta dishes. These dishes, however, are much, much larger than what the USDA considers to be a serving. For example, the chefs were asked to estimate how much penne comprises a typical portion, half gave amounts that were six to eight times as much as the USDA considers to be a serving (one ounce). This would be super-interesting, except that USDA servings are not so much real servings. The USDA recommends that most Americans get at least six servings of grains per day. No one is expecting you to sit down for dinner with one ounce (a mere half cup!) of pasta on your plate. That’s just dumb.
What bothers us even more than the willful ignorance about the food pyramid, however, is the implication that chefs and their portion sizes are responsible for consumers’ overeating. While we definitely do not dispute that when something is delicious, it’s tempting to eat every last bite, ultimately, you’re in control of how much you eat. We’ve found that portions at the vast majority of restaurants are large enough that we can eat half the dish for dinner and the rest for lunch the next day. Not only is this more healthful, but it’s economical. $20 for an entree isn’t so steep if you think about it as two $10 meals. Just because your plate is piled high with pasta doesn’t mean that you have to eat it all, especially not after you’ve had bread and oil and maybe an appetizer. Next time you’re faced with a giant entree, eat half (or even a third) and then pause and assess whether you’re still hungry. If so, keep eating! If not, rejoice in the fact that you’re saving money and get pumped for a kickass lunch tomorrow.