Group 2 , Topic 1. Restaurant Portions And Obesity


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A portion of a group assignment in my Obesity (Special Topics/Trends) course.

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Group 2 , Topic 1. Restaurant Portions And Obesity

  1. 1. One strategy to impact the obesity epidemic would be to address oversized restaurant portions. 1 Running Head: The obesity epidemic and oversized restaurant portions. Portion Distortion and the Obesity Epidemic Leah Shields, Anthony Joshua and Jessica Jones University of Florida
  2. 2. Obesity is defined as the condition of having increased body weight caused by an excessive accumulation of fat (Mifflin, 2006). Obesity has become one of today’s biggest epidemic scares. Over one third of Americans or about 70 million people in the U.S are obese. The death toll is steadily increasing at 300,000 deaths a year and costing more than 100 billion a year in healthcare (O.W.B, 2002). In today’s society, we can attribute many factors to the cause of obesity. Bigger portion sizes have become an increasing trend in today’s society. Consumers today are requesting for better meal deals, but instead of lowered prices, restaurants are creating bigger portion sizes. Restaurants are serving portions that are three-to-five times larger than a normal meal. Most Americans have become a member of the clean plate club. In fact 67% of Americans said they finish their entrees most of the time or always (AICR, 2001). As Restaurants are competing daily for consumer dollars, they’re increasing the size of their portions to attract those members of the clean plate club. According to John L. Stanton, professor of food marketing, St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pa., “it comes down to simple economics--the cheapest way to give customers extra value is to increase portion sizes. If you're a restaurant owner, for example, you can give your customers value in one of two ways. You can either cut your prices, or you can put more food on [customers'] plates (Darmiento, 2003)." Americans are unconsciously cleaning their plates without being aware of the extra food and calories added. Many people cannot judge accurately how much they consume over the course of a few days or weeks (Frobisher & Maxwell, 2003). Larger portion sizes tend to be underestimated more than smaller portions. One reason may be that repeated exposure to bigger meals over the past generation has fostered the normalization of bigger portion sizes. Americans can no longer be satisfied with the correct serving size of foods; we’ve become a nation of “more
  3. 3. One strategy to impact the obesity epidemic would be to address oversized restaurant portions. 3 bang for your buck”. Through research and discussion our task force has discovered that there are numerous ideas regarding the ways in which oversized portions at restaurants impact the obesity epidemic. According to a claim published in USA Today made by the American Institute for Cancer Research, Americans need to avoid large portions that are featured through a value marketing system (2001). This type of system gives the consumer few choices when trying to find a bargain or value in the product they are purchasing. This marketing also effects how much food people are receiving on their plates at restaurants. The financial advantage to restaurants is also huge because the price to add the extra food is much less than the price that they are actually charging the consumer. AICR Director for Nutrition Education Melanie Polk, (2001) urges that "Americans have to keep in mind that getting more food for less money has an inescapable--and often overlooked--downside. It simply shifts the pressure from our wallets to our waistbands." (Society for the Advancement of Education , p.1,¶ 2) The flip side of the coin or the food industry feels that they are merely filling the demand by consumers for more, more, and more food. The battle will only be won once we can realize that our perceptions of the portions we are served are above and beyond what fits within the food guide pyramid for nutrition. Now more than ever before the population is surrounded by what Kelly Brownell coined as “toxic food environment” in which there is an abundance of food at inexpensive prices with high caloric values tacked on (Varnes, 2008). The perceptions we have on the portions that we are served can have a large affect on the amount we consume. Portion distortion takes control over our minds each time we sit down in a restaurant or cafeteria to have a meal. Recently, researchers explored the exposure to large portion sizes for college aged undergraduates at
  4. 4. dining halls on campus. College students are offered large quantities of endless supply at their campus eateries while never being told about the caloric consequences of such gorging. Interestingly, when they rated the serving size against the portion size they consume there was a distinct gap leading to an even larger gap in calories consumed (Bryant & Dundes, 2005). Such trends are alarming, given the tendency for consumption to increase proportionate with enlarged portion size. It is now believed that being a longtime member of the Clean Plate Club can lead to serious chronic health risks and disease. While men finish their plates four times more then women do, all diners indulge in the passive overeating at restaurants and cafeterias leading to obesity and related diseases.(AICR, 2001) Also, 65% of those who never or only sometimes finished their meals thought that the portions were too large but only 7% of them told their server of their dissatisfaction. The enlarged portions seen on many restaurant plates can be addressed if the consumer knows more about what they are ordering before they do so. Menu labeling has been a new phenomenon striking the restaurant industry by storm. Most of the fast food chains now have the nutritional values posted inside their restaurants as well as online on their websites. However, the majority of sit-down restaurants have not instituted this feature. The main reason why this has not come to play is because of the major lobbying by the food industry when it is taken through legal deliberations (Darmiento, 2003). There have now been eight states to introduce bills on menu nutrition labeling and not one has gotten through the Senate floor. Dr. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, (2003) “such labeling, especially on menus, could encourage restaurants to reduce portion size -- even though that has not been the case with fast food restaurants.” There is no question that if the diner has the ability to confront the calories that face them in their present meal they will opt
  5. 5. One strategy to impact the obesity epidemic would be to address oversized restaurant portions. 5 more frequently for a doggy bag in favor of stretching their dollar instead of their waist size. Another aspect of the portion size problem is psychological in nature for individuals’ behavior. According to an issue of Eating Behaviors (2007) the research has shown how the consumer can change their behavior and have better control over their consumption of meals at restaurants. This is all based on the principles of the mind’s reward system and how that correlates with the motivation to eat but within the body’s limitations. There is a large gap in the accuracy of peoples’ portion-size estimations while the majority of people were under estimating the sizes of their meals (Curtis, Davis, Patte & Tweed, 2007). All together, these factors were significant in determining increased weight gain and the challenge for dieters that have misperceptions psychologically of their portions. Mind over matter, when it comes down to the financial burden set out upon consumers that wish to purchase more healthful and nutritious foods, their wallets are rewarded when they purchase the bag of chips instead of the bag of triple- washed lettuce. Fast food restaurants, they are in a class of their own. This is especially true when you are looking at the fat and calorie content of their super-sized portions. With high energy dense foods and large portions, there is an inevitable increases in the caloric amount consumed. It is the large quantities of fried foods laden with trans-fatty acids that produce the most life threatening effects on the cardiovascular system and overall BMI. Portion sizes of burgers, fried potatoes, pizzas, and soft drinks at fast-food outlets have all increased 2–5-fold over the last 50 years (Stender, Dyerberg, & Astrup, 2007). This research clearly defines the fast food industry’s role in the obesity epidemic and serves to argue that fast food restaurants are unsafe to visit due to their oversized portions and quality of food delivered.
  6. 6. At this point, the task force has shown that there is a visible connection between the portion sizes that are served in restaurants and the growing obesity epidemic in America. The dilemma is that although restaurants are serving the larger portions, it is up to the consumer to choose what and how much to eat. John L. Stanton a professor of food marketing has said, “Last I checked, it’s the consumer who’s shoveling all that food into his mouth, not the food industry (Society for the Advancement of Education , p. 2, ¶ 1).” While this may be true the food industry and their “value marketing” play a large role in the decisions consumers make. With the economy in its current state Americans are always looking for a bargain or a way to make their money go farther, the fact that restaurants are selling more food for less money makes it advantageous for Americans to buy more food. In order to alleviate the problem totally the food industry must also jump on and sell more food for more money and less food for less money. As a consumer you can contact specific restaurants to suggest that they offer a smaller portioned meal at a lower price. Many people like the idea of a bargain but if people speak out against the large portion sizes then companies will makes strides to keep their customers happy. However, with “value marketing” being used as a thriving technique, the solution will have to come from the consumers to curb over-sized portions consumed and the rising obesity trend. There is without question a problem when it comes to the amount of food that restaurants are serving but there are a few very effective solutions in fighting this. Interestingly, there are now several restaurants that are supporting the idea of smaller portions on their menus. TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse are two examples that are now offering right-size menus in addition to their normal menus. These menus offer smaller portions of food for less money thus appealing to customers who both want to be served smaller portion sizes while also saving money. However, these are very recent adjustments in the restaurant food industry’s response to
  7. 7. One strategy to impact the obesity epidemic would be to address oversized restaurant portions. 7 the consumer’s interest and desire to see smaller portions on the menu, and therefore they have not been evaluated to confirm their benefits and appeal to consumers. If not left with the choice to order from a right choice menu there are many other things to do to ensure that you are eating the right amount of food. The Director of Education for the American Institute for Cancer research, Melanie Polk makes such recommendations. She has coined the phrase, “Say small, say half and share (Food industry is making America Fat, p. 3, ¶ 1).” This means that when going to a restaurant that serves oversized portions it is beneficial to either share your meal with a friend, or ask the server to put half of your meal into a to go box before even bringing the meal out to your table. At fast food restaurants Polk also suggests that you ask for a small rather then getting the regular or “value sized” meal. It is important to understand that just because you are ordering a “small” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ordering a smaller than recommended portion. With education about correct portion sizes as well as using some of the previously mentioned advice the “portion distortion” problem can easily be resolved and lend a hand in the goals to decrease the percentage of the population that is obese. References *All works cited in paper, constitutes bibliography.
  8. 8. American Institute for Cancer Research, (2001, January 15). As restaurant portions grow, vast majority of Americans still belong to the clean plate club. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from Charity Wire Web site: Astrup, A., Dyerber, J., & Stender, S., (June 2007). Fast food: unfriendly and unhealthy. International Journal of Obesity, 31-6, 887-890. Bryant, R., Dundes, L., (2005). Portion distortion: A study of college students. Journal of Consumer Affairs. 39-2, 399-408. Center for Disease Control (2008). How to avoid portion size pitfalls to help manage your weight. Retrieved July 4, 2008 from Center for Disease Control Web site: on_size.htm weight/portion_size.htm. Curtis, C., Davis, C., Patte, K., Tweed, S., (April 2007) Psychological factors associated with ratings of portion size: Relevance to the risk profile for obesity. Eating Behaviors, 8-2, 170-176. Darmiento, L (2003, July 23). Way too much of a good thing. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from BNET Business Network Web site: tag=artBody;col1 Frobisher, C., & Maxwell, S. M. (2003). The estimation of food portion sizes: A comparison
  9. 9. One strategy to impact the obesity epidemic would be to address oversized restaurant portions. 9 between using descriptions of portion sizes and a photographic food atlas by children and adults. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 16, 181–188. Mifflin, H.C., (2006). Obesity. In The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language [Web]. Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved July 16, 2008, from Murphy, J. (2000, June 15). The super-sizing of America: Are fast food chains to blame for the nation’s obesity? The Washington Post. O.W.B., (2002, January 06). Anti-obesity drugs: a research insight into the health costs. Retrieved July 16, 2008, from Scientist Live Web site: obesity_drugs:_a_research_insight_into_the_health_costs/. Society for Advancement of Education. (August 2001). Food industry is making America fat- oversized portions-brief article. USA Today. Varnes, J. (Summer 2008) Class discussion notes. HSC4950.