Large portion sizes and high energy-dense foods are a contributing factor to overweight and obesity. It used to be ok to clean your plate when eating out, but it is not any longer. Why?
Portion Sizes Changed Over Time
In the past decades, portion sizes of high-caloric foods and drinks have increased. What used to be a medium sized drink might be considered small nowadays.
Portion size is a key element to drive energy intake. Larger-than-appropriate portion sizes seem to increase the risk of weight gain.
Do We Eat More When Served More?
Yes we do. Lots of research was done to establish a correlation between portion size and energy intake. It was demonstrated for different types of foods and beverages, and is particularly pronounced with energy-dense foods.
Which means we tend to eat less, when in front of a large bowl of salad. But if we have fried and sugary food in front of us, and we struggle to stop when we are full.
Can We Limit Ourselves?
If we are exposed to larger portions for a prolonged time, we mostly fail to adjust our intake. Our self-regulatory behavior is often not sufficient to balance our physical need for food and our mental desire to overeat.
Practical Tip: If you go to a buffet, fill half of your plate with veggies, and the other half with other foods. Set yourself a limit for how many re-fills it will take you to fill your hunger.
Choosing More Low Energy Dense Foods
Portion size itself is not the only contributing element. As you can imagine, it is crucial what the portion is made of. Low energy density foods are for example soups, rice, fruits and vegetables.
When eating at home, we have more control over what and how much we are going to serve ourselves. It is easier to fill our plate with lots of low energy dense food, and less with more calories.
Contrary, eating at food outlets and leisure places and “on the go” is associated with less-healthy food choices than eating at home.
Energy Density and Successful Weight Management
A study showed that eating regular sized portions of low-energy-dense foods was a more successful weight loss strategy than fat reduction coupled with restriction of portion sizes.
Eating satisfying portions of low-energy-dense foods helps to be less hungry, while lowering your energy intake for successful weight management.
Practical Tip: Larger amounts of steamed veggies, beans and chicken and less fried burgers and sugary milk shakes.
Meals versus Food Groups
People eat meals rather than nutrients or food groups. Showing them the ideal percentage-split of a plate into food groups like veggies, fruits, grains and protein foods is not always successful. Some struggle to convert the precentages into a healthy meal combo.
Practical Tip: More and more restaurants list nutrition facts on their menus. Learn how to read them and choose lower fat/ lower added sugar foods to avoid overeating rich foods.
Learn How to Read The New Food Labels LINK
Will Smaller Plates Lead to Smaller Waists?
So far there is mixed evidence supporting this theory. But some studies found that larger dishware sizes were associated with greater intake. One research team found that larger plates had about 24% more food drawn on them than small plates.
Overall, a larger plate size may encourage greater food consumption. Keep in mind that it is crucial what you put on there.
Simply Eating Less Is Not Effective
Although portion control is important for weight management, urging people simply to ‘eat less’ of all foods may not be the best approach as high-energy-dense foods disproportionately increase energy intake compared with those lower in energy density.
My favorite strategy for successful weight loss:
Eat more of foods low in energy density while limiting portions of high-energy-dense foods.
Practical Tip: A large portion of veggies first, then add your small portion of waffle fries.
Cleaning Your Plate Leads To Weight Gain
Very true. If you continue to clean your large plate when served in a restaurant, you are likely to gain weight.
Cook more often and enjoy healthier foods at home.