Bye bye supersizing, hello downsizing: Cut calories by opting for smaller portions – but would you pay the same for less food
Last updated at 9:05 PM on 9th February 2012
Supersizing has, in recent years, been linked to obese America. It perhaps stands to reason, then, that downsizing – exercising restraint when it comes to portion control – could help combat the obesity epidemic.
Encouraging new findings suggest that Americans could whittle down obesity levels by simply offering customers the option to downsize on fast food restaurant menus.
Not only are consumers open to trying smaller portions, found the study, published by Health Affairs yesterday, but they cut calories by doing so – and left the equivalent amount of food behind to that of a normal-sized portion.
Simple solution: A third of customers chose to downsize to a smaller side dish, eating 200 fewer calories by doing so, according to a new study
The findings may offer an alternative to dieting that is based upon calories of different food types, focusing instead on simply eating less.
Led by behavioural psychologist, Janet Schwartz, Tulane University researchers watched a group of diners at a fast food Chinese restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, reports ABC's Good Morning America.
Unaware they were being observed, customers were given the choice to downsize to a smaller portion of a side dish.
The scientists found that a third of the customers opted for the smaller portion and by doing so, immediately omitted 200 calories from their meals.
Dr Schwartz told the programme's site that 'suggesting a smaller portion allows people to satisfy a desire for a food and does not force them to sacrifice what they want to eat'.
Fries with that Morgan Spurlock famously popularised the term 'supersizing'
She explained that the a major stumbling block for dieters is that calories counts on foods have not helped to lower consumption levels.
And, as 'substituting a salad for a Big Mac is not an appealing choice', it makes sense to simply encourage people to eat smaller portions of what they do like.
By instilling portion control into meal times, calories are restricted and the 'cultural' urge to finish the plate is still satisfied. 'Culturally, Americans do not respond to the cue of “feeling full.” The cue to stop eating is only when the plate is empty', Dr Schwartz told GMA.
Teaching people that they can reduce calories without being wholly denied of certain foods will, the scientists hope, help them to look at meals, including drink options, differently.
While the restaurant had at first been tentative to offer the choice, fearing customers may feel offended and that value is a customer's key concern, managers soon found that the restaurant was saving money, too.
Morgan Spurlock famously coined the term 'supersizing' in his documentary Supersize Me, which held a spotlight to the worrying culture of being offered to upgrade to a larger portion size for a small sum at major fast food chains such as McDonald's.
At the North Carolina eatery, not only did a 25 cent price reduction for the downsized option prove irrelevant to customer's decisions, but the study confirmed the findings of an earlier report that suggested customers would accept less food if offered, but would not ask for a smaller portion, unprompted.