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The Straight On The Skinny

The Straight On The Skinny

People on a scaleEven the frenzy sur-rounding low carb/high protein diet regimes can’t make the obesity is-sue go away.

Now the people at San-Francisco trend-tracking firm Trend-scape predict “simple-sizing” —the practice of serving smaller food portions in response to obesity concerns— will be the No. 1 con-sumer phenomenon of 2004.

But was it ever established that oversized restaurant meals were the ultimate culprit here?

Not exactly. Evidence that restaurant portions contribute to obesity has been largely anecdotal so far, although many restaurant meals flunk the “eyeball test” on causality. Super-sized portions served in the QSR market have taken a lot of the media heat; full ser-vice operators get their share of criticism, too.

So should operators feel guilty or, more importantly, cut back on the portion sizes they serve?

We turn to academia for an answer. University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Rozin conducted a study of portion sizes of identical items served in restaurants in the U. S. and in France, publishing his peer-reviewed results in Psychologi-cal Science, the journal of the American Psychological Soci-ety. His findings in this item-by-item study: “On average, American portions are 25 percent larger,” he says.

“Probably the single most important determinant of meal intake is how much is served,” Rozin adds. “Studies show that people serve themselves bigger portions out of the larger sizes. If you ask someone to pour a Coke out of a two-liter bottle, they will pour more.”

The upshot for operators: Lighten up on those portions you serve if you want to sidestep the obesity debate.

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