Recent studies have indicated that food portion sizes have increased over the last few decades, roughly after World War II. Eating out or ordering in used to be considered a luxury. Now, cooking at home is often an elaborate event that only hallmarks a special occasion.
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Food historian, Rebecca Earl, and renowned chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall explained the direct correlation between food portion sizes and time period in Britain. The culture of food consumption transitioned from rationed in the 1940s to excessive in modern day, which has further contributed to the global obesity challenge.
Here’s a look at a few factors that have influenced the expansion of both the average plate size and the portion of food on it.
A funny observation that I’ve made every time I travel from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, and back, is how the cup sizes of fountain drinks vary from region to region, even with the same brand. In terms of quantity, what is sufficient to one culture is perceived as excessive by another.
In addition, enhanced international trade has made it easier to access and utilize food ingredients that are typically not native to a region.
More Options, But Limited Resources
Brands vying for their customers’ attention are under pressure to deliver more options. This, in turn, has been feeding the problem of both food consumption and food waste. While it is not uncommon for regions such as North America to rely on seasonal menus, this might not always be the case for regions that rely on exporters to meet the food demands of the growing local population. A few brands try to demonstrate good value for money through their portion sizes. As a result, the design of food storage and take-out boxes are keeping up with the times to give the appearance of a “full meal.”
The Influence of Quantity on Consumption
The average size of the present-day muffin is more than 300% larger than the USDA recommendations for a standard portion. Similarly, in a controlled real-world experiment was conducted on students, researchers found that the more food young adults are served, the more they overeat. In fact, the deeper the serving bowls got and the wider the serving plates became, the more food the study participants consumed.
Part of this could be attributed to how some children are conditioned at an early age to leave their plates clean and to not waste food. However, the real moment of teaching ought to begin before the food is even served. Portion control, unfortunately, is not a skill that is taught to every child.
Perhaps there is some truth to what Oscar Wilde once wrote: “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
What are some other trends that have caught your attention lately when it comes to increasing food portion sizes? Feel free to comment below.