How full would you feel if you thought you were eating a big portion, but the actual amount of food was smaller than it seemed? Or if you thought you were eating a small portion, but really received a large one? Research from England suggests that feeling satisfied depends on the amount you think you're eating, and not necessarily the amount you actually consume. In an experiment, half the participants were shown a small portion of fruit to be used for a smoothie while the other half was shown a large portion. Both groups were asked how satisfying they expected the smoothie to be. Three hours later, they were asked to rate how full they felt. Those who were shown the large portion reported feeling more full, even though the smoothies they received were actually made with the smaller amount of fruit. In another test, researchers rigged up a soup bowl so that the amount of soup could be increased or decreased without the eater's awareness. Afterward, "fullness" ratings proved to be related to the remembered amount of soup in the bowl, not the actual amount consumed. The research was reported at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.
My take? Large portions - the "supersize" factor - play a central role in the current obesity epidemic. Other studies have shown how easily people fall into the habit of consuming oversized portions. In one clinical trial, researchers tracked the food consumption of nearly two dozen adults for 11 days. First, they gave their volunteers standard sized servings. Then they gave them portions that were 50 percent larger. The participants consistently ate more when they were provided with more to eat. In general, research has shown that people eat more when given large portions. We’ve got to get into the habit of cutting back on portion sizes, particularly in restaurants, where you can safely assume that the portions are too big (half is plenty). Follow the serving sizes suggested in my anti-inflammatory diet for healthy and satisfying meals.
Confused about portion size? Mastering Portion Control.