Saturday, June 4, 2011

Small portions: good for you and good for the environment

Why do we have an obesity epidemic in the US?  Portion size is a big part of it.  

Whenever I travel to Europe or Australia, portions are smaller.  Smaller portions are good for those of us leading mostly sedentary lifestyles, and they are good for the environment.  Food waste, as I discuss in the book, is a huge target if we want to reduce greenhouse gas production, water use, and preserve natural landscapes.  But you could similarly argue that eating more than is needed is a form of waste as well.  

Why do we eat so much?  Partly a function of plate size and serving size.  We eat more if our servings are bigger.  We eat more if our plates are bigger.  We eat and drink more if plates and glasses are constantly re-filled.  Ironically, it's the first few bites of any food that are the most enjoyable.  That's why I suggest serving lots of small 'tapas' at a dinner party. 

By eating mindfully, and therefore eating less, we're doing something good for us, and also something good for the environment.

Discussion questions:  How could you eat more mindfully?  How far does this extend?  Should we be concerned about what we're eating in addition to how much we're eating?

More reading
The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab conducts research into this topic.  Some of it s discussed on their website, more is discussed at the Mindless Eating website, while the book "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" is brilliant.  



  1. From Berna-Dean Holland

    I have always had trouble with portion size when I like the taste of something. I wonder if I was to increase the power on the reading portion of my progressive eye glasses, if I would decrease my eating portion size. Seriously though....I had never made the link between small portion size and an environmental footprint before..... This provides me a whole new motivation for cutting back!!

  2. From Helen Robertson

    What we really noticed when we visited the US a few years ago that the meals were enormous!! Four people could have eaten a full meal from one of our plates at one restaurant... it was embarrassing to have to keep sending uneaten food away. Even when I expressly told one cafe that I wasn’t feeling too well that day and only wanted a plain cheese sandwich – I got the HUGEST plate piled high with enough sandwiches for a footy team, all surrounded by hot chips!! ... and when I ate only one small sandwich they got really annoyed that I didn’t eat it all... sheesh!!

    Another issue for me is the amount of food we actually buy... so often we purchase food items which we really won’t end up eating. Maybe they were “on special” or you get 2 for the price of one or whatever... So much gets left in the fridge until it is furry and then thrown into the compost bin (if you have one...chooks are also handy).