Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Restaurant Portion Size

Restaurant portion sizes are out of control in the United States.  I do not go out to eat to store up for a long winter.  I go to enjoy a quality meal...not a quantity one.  However, most restaurants do not seem to subscribe to this philosophy.

I was very aware that when I moved to Ireland, everything that came on your plate was substantially smaller.  From a McDonald's hamburger, to the size of a soda can, it was "super-sizing" in reverse.  And I loved it!  Thank goodness you could indulge on occasion without it being so out of line!  We'll forget that I was there during the mad cow outbreak and never actually ate beef, and they feed their turkeys fish, so the meat tasted so odd to me that I wouldn't eat poultry, and so was essentially vegetarian before my time.  Alright, a tuna-terian.  I was a college student, after all. 

Back to U.S. portions.  Chris and I went to Cheesecake Factory on Saturday night.  Yes, I recognize that they are one of the biggest culprits of over-sized portions, but who better to highlight?  In fact, their website states, "The Cheesecake Factory is famous for our generous portions which are ideal for sharing or taking home for a second meal – but be sure to save room to enjoy one of 50 legendary cheesecakes and specialty desserts."  The joke here is that they only state a "second" meal!

I LOVE their food.  This is not a criticism on their recipes, service, atmosphere, or anything else.  I ordered Evelyn's Favorite Pasta.  According to their website, again, this is, "Penne Tossed with Broccoli, Oven-Dried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Artichoke, Kalamata Olives, Garlic, Pine Nuts and Parmesan."  Can you say, HEAVEN?  Well, Chris would find this disgusting, but I loved it.  Little heavy on the olive oil, but otherwise delicious.

The problem?  When the meal came out, I estimated that they had given me a full pound of pasta.  No, that is not an exaggeration.  The meal was presented on a serving platter.  No worries, I would just eat until I felt full.  When that occurred, you could barely tell I had touched the food.  The amount served lasted me 3 meals, and I felt like I had over-eaten each time.

1/3 of Evelyn's Favorite Pasta

Out of curiosity, I looked up the calorie content.  According to LiveStrong, Evelyn's Favorite Pasta contained 1192 calories and 33 grams of fat!!!  And this is for a dish that "sounds" somewhat healthy!  I know that long ago we all learned that we can't judge the health-quotient from the description on a menu, but to use almost an entire day's calories in one meal is beyond ridiculous.  And, after factoring in 2 pieces of bread and a glass of lemonade (that was also gigantic), I would probably have reached my daily goal.

Fortunately, our bodies are smart if you listen to them.  I didn't finish the lemonade, and eating 1/3 of the pasta dish would have equaled about 397 calories and 11 grams of fat.  MUCH more rational.  Why are we put in this situation, though?  Obviously, much of the country has lost the ability to hear their inner voice (including myself a lot of the time!).  I wish that restaurants would make it a little easier on us and reduce the portions to a rational size, that we could relish with gusto, and not have a food coma afterward.

I think the portion confusion that exists is what has led our country to try so many unhealthy diet plans.  I 100% believe in not limiting what foods you eat, but to eat a variety, and to do so in moderation.  I don't eat much meat or dairy, but that's not for diet purposes, but rather for the comfort of my body and mind.

Here's my call to arms!  American restaurants?  Please do your part to stop inflation.  Of our waistlines, that is.     


  1. I am SOOO WITH YOU! I really like going to places that offer a "light" or "lunch" portion. Especially when you order something that doesn't taste good when reheated!

  2. My husband and I went to Benihana the other night. When we were done, I still had over half of my food on my plate, but I was the only one. EVERYONE else at our table had cleaned their plates!!!

  3. Aw Katy, that's what I love about the U.S. Gluttony. In fact, when I get free refills on soda, I like to chant, "USA, USA!"