Dining out can be a restful break from routine, but it can also be an unfortunate opportunity to indulge in salty, fatty foods (even at sit-down and fine dining establishments). Apart from what they serve, we should think about how much. A dozen years ago, when I first began writing about food, health, and the environment, I wrote:
“We eat too much. In the 1990s, Americans consumed several hundred more calories a day than we did in the 1950s. Restaurant portion sizes have increased, in some cases by 100%. More restaurants are serving gigantic portions. One restaurant in Texas offers a meal of a 72-ounce steak (yes, four and a half pounds) plus shrimp cocktail, potato, salad, and bread.”
The obesity epidemic has many causes (such as government policies that make junk food cheaper than healthy food), as I’ve written in a professional health journal, but surely sheer quantity of food consumed is one of them. Restaurant portions have been part of the problem, especially in fast food places, because big chains can “supersize” a meal and charge much more for the upgrade than the actual ingredients cost. I think the habit of big portions just percolated through the industry, even to good restaurants. When is the last time you dined out and were able to eat everything on your plate? I thought so.
Could there be a change coming? New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom has found numerous chain restaurants are now offering lighter, healthier fare. Not just lettuce salad, either; they’re reworking some of their standard offerings – and giving smaller servings.
I think this is a good idea. Unless you bring your own doggie bag, taking food home from a restaurant uses packaging (paper, foil, plastic, or all three). Not earth-friendly!
So next time you go to your favorite restaurant, consider praising the staff for offering smaller servings – or ask for them.