“Would you like to downsize those fries?”
It’s not too likely that we will be hearing that from fast food places anytime soon. However, a recent study by scientists at Duke University explored what would happen if a smaller portion of food with lower calories was offered at a Chinese fast food restaurant. Less than 1% chose the smaller portion when it was just on the menu. When the servers asked, “Would you like the smaller serving of rice for 200 fewer calories?” the statistics changed. About a third of the customers opted for the smaller portion.*
My husband Paul and I are currently in Thailand on a mission trip. That’s one definite difference we have seen in the culture here. The portion sizes are smaller. At the nearby Dairy Queen, for instance, the small sizes are tiny — too small to do a lot of caloric damage, but enough to satisfy when you eat it slowly. The large size is about the same as our small at home. (I haven’t gotten the nerve to try the green tea and red bean Blizzard, yet, but I may.)
Restaurant portions are small to moderate, but are adequate. The exceptions are the foods prepared for foreign tourists. In fact, the tourist foods have caught on in the bigger cities, such as Chiang Mai, where we are staying. The large Central Mall has numerous doughnut places and pastry shops. That may be the reason that you don’t see overweight Thai people in the remoter areas, but you do see them in the cities and tourist areas. When they eat like westerners, they soon start having our weight issues!
By the way, I love pastries, and they tend to be my downfall. I have been able to escape temptation, though, because they do not cover or wrap their pastries here. They are out on the table, ready to collect any stray germs from inquisitive toddlers or careless sneezers. Not interested.
While we can’t force restaurants to give smaller portions, there are always options for avoiding food that you don’t need or really want. You can share an entree, or ask for a senior or child’s plate. Many restaurants will let you order from the menus that give smaller portions at a cheaper price, even if your age doesn’t qualify you.
If all else fails, ask for a to-go box to come when your meal arrives. Keep only what you need and want on your plate and pack up the rest for dinner tomorrow. If you do this before the meal, it is much more likely that the other half will go home in the box, not in your stomach.
Forget about super-sizing and focus on down-sizing your portions. You will be surprised to find that you can be satisfied with less. You will also find your clothing will soon need to be down-sized, too!
Susan Jordan Brown
* The study was published in the February issue of Health Affairs.