We all know the sermon: We are fat and getting fatter because we eat too much. These days the people giving us too much food are (pick one):
a) Your mother
b) Your spouse
c) The chef at your favorite restaurant
The answer is probably c), the chef. Your mother or your spouse may also try to overfeed you but since we eat so few meals at home, we are more likely to get too much food to eat from the restaurants we go to for our breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Sometimes the overfeeding of the customer is obvious. Any entrée that is bigger than your head is obviously going to contain too many calories -- unless you are tackling a head of cauliflower for dinner. Portion inflation is also obvious in the bagel and muffin trade. What used to be standard muffin or bagel size is now regarded as mini as in a mini-muffin. And when your breakfast of pancakes, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown potatoes and buttered toast fills a platter that could hold a Thanksgiving turkey, you know that you may be eating enough food for a family of four.
But the problem is that we have become accustomed to restaurant portions and don't think of them as too big. It is easy to spot a meal that may cause weight gain, especially when the food on the plate is stacked so high, you can't see the head of the eater. But when everyone is the restaurant is served a pound of meat or fish and two cups of mashed potatoes or rice, we assume that this is a normal portion. Think about a steak restaurant. If the steak portions on the menu range from 8 ounces to 20, we regard the 8 ounces steak as a tidbit rather than twice as much meat as we should be eating at a meal.
Even the appetizers have fallen victim to portion inflation. As someone who prefers eating an appetizer and a salad rather than an entrée, I have been shocked at how much food is served for a course that typically is followed by the main meal and maybe even dessert. When some humongous portion of an appetizer was put before me recently, I asked the waiter if most people could eat another course after this one. "Sure," he said. "This is just the first course." It is only when we eat in another country that we realize how much less food is served.