J500 Media and the Environment

Portions in restaurants need to “SuperShrink” by bpirotte

“Are you gonna eat that?”–the question that always seems to come up after a meal shared with friends. And it usually comes from me.

You might be thinking I’m just an incredibly hungry, insatiable 20 year old male, but the truth is, I ask to help finish people’s plates because I hate waste so much.

Growing up, I was always taught the idea of a “happy plate.” Finish all that you were served, no matter if it was meat, potatoes, vegetables or pudding, time at the table wasn’t done until everything was eaten up. And this didn’t seem to be a challenge for my sister and I as children, one because we were decent eaters and not particularly picky, but also because Mom never over served us, making sure we had just the right of food on our plates.

While it wasn’t until later I ever heard the threat of “there are starving kids in Africa, eat your food!”, I just knew it was my duty to finish what I was given, and that value has stuck with me ever since.

In a culture where restaurants serve way too much,

A 30 oz steak? How many meals could you make from that? Restaurants need to lower portion sizes. Photo from Flickr by TheMuuj

it’s hard not to waste. It’s not always practical (or possible) to ask for that doggy bag, but when possible, dinner the night before often makes a great lunch the next day. In reality, though, restaurants really should be making portions smaller to avoid such blatant waste. I don’t think customers would complain really, either. How many times has a waiter come to your table to ask about dessert and you have to deny them on the basis of your stomach already being at carrying capacity? No wonder obesity is such an issue.

With eating out being something Americans just don’t seem to want to give up, restaurants should respond by offering healthier, smaller portions of their food at least an option. The restaurants would save money, and the consumers could save some pounds.

–Ben P.


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You make a great point! I too feel bad about wasting food, and many times I end up bringing home leftovers as well. I think you make a great suggestion of smaller portions. I think it would eliminate a ton of waste too.
Do you think many people would take advantage of this if they were given the opportunity?

Great post! I couldn’t agree with you more.
-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

Jackie, I know I definitely would. I often end up sharing portions with people I am with, which is a form of shrinking portions.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte


I too hate seeing all of the waste in my family’s restaurant (though I don’t see as much there as most places, I think there is just something about BBQ that makes people take home the leftovers). But I think that many people do want big portions so that they don’t feel like they’re being ripped off. I also think that people know what they are ordering. I’m pretty sure that 30 oz steak would say “30 oz steak” on the menu, so the person should have known ahead of time. I am wondering, do you think taking the leftovers home could be a solution? Especially if the togo containers are eco-friendly or if you bring your own reusable containers from home? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

While a 30 oz steak in particular is an obvious exaggeration, many restaurants do, in fact, NOT offer alternatives to large portions. Have you ever eaten at the Cheesecake Factory? I’ve had up to three meals from their single portions! Leftovers are a current solution, but I don’t think anyone is going to want to bring their own reusable containers, especially to more upscale restaurants. I don’t think people will feel “ripped off,” especially if restaurants shrink their prices with their portions. If the size is advertised, I think that the people who would complain would order the bigger portions then.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

I related with your post a lot. I think that we have created the “bigger is better” mentality in the U.S. and it is harming us more than helping us in this case. Portion sizes at restaurants are outrageous. Where do you think this stems from?
I’ve also noticed that many restaurants are adding “healthy side” sections to their menus. Do you think that efforts to have a “healthy” section on menus will go any further and the whole menu could become more healthy just by limiting portion sizes?
Becca N.

Comment by beccan

I think the idea of plentiful, cheap food is where such big portions stem from. If it wasn’t so cheap for restaurants to buy the food they serve (and still sell for relatively cheap), the restaurants wouldn’t have such big portions, because no one wants to lose money. I almost think it’s ironic for restaurant to have a “healthy” side to their menus, because that implies the rest really isn’t (which I’m sure they’re right anyway). I think limiting portion sizes is a good first step to making any menu healthier.
–Ben P.

Comment by bpirotte

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