Saturday, May 4, 2013

Portion Distortion: The London Edition

We all know that a meal from a restaurant in America is often a meal for two... unless, of course, you are indulging in a tasting menu-style restaurant and paying top dollar to leave hungry. No matter which extreme you choose, clearly, we aren't doing it right. Now, nobody is perfect, but in London, they seem to be a little more aware of the proper portion sizes that make up each part of a meal.

We don't have to turn to My Plate, or any of those other infographics to get a feel for what we should be eating, but we could. Based on the meals served at most restaurants in the US, it may actually come as a shocker to some that vegetables should make up the largest part of the plate. Often, they are absent entirely in American meals. I mean, I get it... restaurants want to serve what people want, and for whatever reason, it seems like there's some common notion that veggies don't win the popularity contest on the plate of an entree. Think about it. If children order chicken fingers and fries or a grilled cheese with fries, there are no veggies in there! (No- ketchup and fries do not count as a serving of vegetables!) At least in London, if you order a plate of fish and chips, you often get some peas along with it. Not to say that that makes up for the fried mess that engulfs the rest of the plate, but at least it gives you the opportunity to fill up on some veggies before you dive head first into the fries. Not to mention, a meal of burger and fries in America often comes with an overflowing plate of fries and a burger that is as big as your face. It shouldn't come as a surprise that that is way more food that one person should eat in one meal... and it probably contains enough saturated fat to last you a week. In London, every time someone ordered a dish with a side of chips, it came with an actual side of chips- just a few chips-- not an overflowing mound of potatoes that could feed a small village of children. In retrospect, if you wanted to indulge in an order of chips every now and then in London, it wouldn't be such a bad thing. And while the burger does not adhere to the recommended 3 to 4 ounce serving of ground beef that the average person should consume in one meal, it's nothing near the “double pounder” that is far too common in America. And, for a dish that would, in fact, come with vegetables of some sort, such as a fish dish with a side salad, the American version differed than the ones I saw in London. The cod and salad I got my first night in London would make a health-junkie proud. I would say I got about a 6 ounce piece of fish with a salad that was bigger than the fish. Unheard of, folks! In America, if I ordered a fish dinner that came with a side of vegetables, which I often do, I think I'd feel privileged if I got six pieces of broccoli without having to pay extra, let alone a whole salad!

Anyway, onto dessert... One of my favorite quotes that a waitress asked while we were in London was if we'd like to “split a dessert”. She didn't ask if we wanted dessert, but if we wanted to split one. I guess it's not common for everyone to get their own dessert in London whereas here, I'm often the odd one out when I opt not to take a peak at the dessert menu. Points for London in the health department right there! I'm not advocating that the dessert, itself, is any healthier, but if all you had was a bite or two of dessert each time you indulged, it wouldn't be so bad. And, if a waitress approached you with a dessert menu in America and asked if you and your friend would like to share a dessert, I have to think she would get a funny look-- I bet some people would even be offended. Then again, maybe it would encourage people to reconsider that gigantic piece of chocolate cake, and maybe opt to split a lighter dessert with a friend just to get a little taste of something sweet. Don't get me wrong, no matter how you slice it, cake is cake... but a thinner slice (a sliver, if you will), is bound to have less of an effect on your waistline, and if you replaced every large slice with a bite, we'd have a thinner nation. Portion distortion is everywhere, but the US is exceptionally guilty.

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