What do you consider to be a portion? We discuss this over and over and over, in many contexts, from what we serve ourselves to what others serve us, and how foods are packaged. Thank goodness someone is studying all this!
In the June issue of Observer, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, there’s a discussion of the psychology of American’s portion choices.
In France, for example, individual containers of yogurt are about half the size of those in the US. Yet, everyone – French or American – considers a single container to be a serving.
Researchers put out plates and bowls of treats, and controlled the serving sizes either by cutting the treats into smaller pieces, or by varying the size of the serving spoon. Invariably, people ate more when treats like donuts were served whole, and when the larger serving spoons were used. One unit.
These psychologists call it ‘unit bias.’ We eat just one, no matter what size it is.
Think about it. Ice cream can be purchased in those cute little half-cup containers, yet many of us consider the pint to be a single serving. Same thing with purchased cakes. Cupcakes are wonderful little serving units, but so are Entenman’s cakes, which range from 8-inch tube size to 7 by 10 sheets [for those of you in other parts of the world, Entenman’s is a local commercial bakery that makes quite good cakes and donuts in large quanitities].
There’s a restaurant near my house that has quite good food. Order pasta, and they’ll cook at least a half pound for you, enough to feed 4-6 people. Ask them for half of that, and they’ll oblige, but you’re still left with an enormous serving.
So, all in all, until [or unless!] we figure out – both on a personal level and as a society – what constitutes ‘a portion,’ offering the ‘right amount’ might go a long way in helping us eat less. And if you’re REALLY hungry or active, eat two servings!