“Clean your plate!” and “Be a member of theclean-plate club!” Just about every kid in the US has heard this from a parentor grandparent. Often, it’s accompanied by an appeal: ”Just think about thosestarving orphans in Africa!“ Sure, we should be grateful for every bite offood. Unfortunately, many people in the US take too many bites. Instead ofstaying “clean the plate”, perhaps we should save some food for tomorrow.
According to news reports, US restaurantsare partly to blame for the growing bellies. A waiter puts a plate of food infront of each customer, with two to four times the amount recommended by thegovernment, according to a USA Today story. Americans traditionally associate quantity with value and mostrestaurants try to give them that. They prefer to have customers complain abouttoo much food rather than too little.
Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor atPennsylvania State University, told USA Today that restaurant portion sizesbegan to grow in the 1970s, the same time that the American waistline began toexpand.
Health experts have tried to get manyrestaurants to serve smaller portions. Now, apparently, some customers arecalling for this too. The restaurant industry trade magazine QSR reported lastmonth that 57 percent of more than 4,000 people surveyed believe restaurantsserve portions that are too large; 23 percent had no opinion; 20 percentdisagreed. But a closer look at the survey indicates that many Americans whocan’t afford fine dining still prefer large portions. Seventy percent of thoseearning at least $150,000 per year prefer smaller portions; but only 45 percentof those earning less than $25,000 want smaller.
It’s not that working class Americans don’twant to eat healthy. It’s just that, after long hours at low-paying jobs,getting less on their plate hardly seems like a good deal. They live frompaycheck to paycheck, happy to save a little money for next year’s Christmas presents.