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Why are American food portions over-sized?

December 6, 2006

MSNBC: Portion sizes growing with American waistlines

I usually go out to lunch by myself during the work week and today I happened to have an epiphany. I went to Jason’s Deli as I do sometimes and ordered a turkey sandwich, because I was really hungry. Well, the sandwich came and it was so large that I was unable to fit it in my mouth. So I proceeded to count the slices of turkey in the sandwich and came out with over eight slices, in addition to the cheese, vegetables, and the dressing. I took over half of the turkey in the sandwich out so I could eat it, and yes, let’s face it, this is coming from a 100-lb woman, but are these portions reasonable for an average person?

No. This past week we had some clients from México in our offices and they were amazed at how big food portions are in the US and, in fact, they ended up doing the same thing I did: taking out some slices of turkey from their sandwiches. I work with many engineers from the UK, Europe, and Asia and they make the same comments about American food portions. In our pilgrimage to World Youth Day last year, many of my fellow pilgrims were amazed as to how small the portions were in Europe and even though we were hungry sometimes, we fasted, which resulted as a great spiritual exercise. At the end of the two-week pilgrimage, we came back and could not eat as much anymore!

I ended up wasting half of my sandwich, which made me feel even worse, but should we eat these big portions in order not to waste? If we do that, instead of changing our eating habits and lifestyles, problems resulting from obesity will increase, which are already a recurring concern in the US. With such large portions in restaurants, sometimes it seems that we are faced with two options: to waste or to become obese!

In my epiphany, I imagined Mother Teresa sitting there with me and seeing how I wasted my food and I struggled with how I could justify my actions to her… or a mother who sees her children die of hunger… or a hungry child…

Sometimes a few get a little bit defensive when others make criticisms about America this and America that (including Vatican officials), but really… how do we justify to the world that we need bigger food portions than the rest? How are we showing universal solidarity when we consume so much and unnecessarily?

How can we start small and try to change these eating habits? I have a couple of thoughts: start with ourselves by fasting and at home by raising our children with good eating habits.

What are your thoughts?

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