Educating Consumers About Healthy Portions

Can we educate consumers about healthy portions? Even if we do, will this have an impact on obesity? This and a host of other questions swirled through an intense day of discussions at Georgetown University Monday. The Georgetown Social Enterprise Initiative convened this closed-panel discussion.

Portion Sizes Growing with Obesity

Portion Sizes Then and NowWhile the prevalence of obesity has grown, portion sizes have grown rather dramatically. Any number of infographics tell that story quite compellingly. Without a doubt, large portion sizes are a feature of our food supply that promotes weight gain.

And in the short term, portion control can be an effective tool for managing weight. Portion controlled meals and snacks are at the core of successful programs like Nutrisystem.

But the problem comes in the big picture. Do big portions cause obesity? Or do those big portions come along as a small part of a much bigger story? Another tough challenge comes with translating short-term interventions into long-term outcomes. For example, this study of portion-controlled meals found a short-term effect that did not last for the full year of the study.

Education or Aspiration?

Educating people about portion sizes might not be enough to make a dent in obesity. Eating is simply not, for most of us, a rational process. Marketers know this and pitch their products to our desires and aspirations. Feelings, not reasons, drive the decision between a beautifully proportioned meal or an all-you-can-eat feast.

And thus, food marketers have insights necessary for solving this puzzle. By themselves, academics and nutrition scientists continue to struggle. Fortunately, consumer desires for health and wellness are growing stronger. Health advocates have fostered that trend. The business sector will play a critical role of translating those desires into a healthier food supply. The motivation? Healthier businesses.

Click here for a thorough review of portion sizes and obesity. Here you’ll find a bit more from ConscienHealth on the subject.

Education, photograph © Community Eye Health / flickr

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January 24, 2018

3 Responses to “Educating Consumers About Healthy Portions”

  1. January 24, 2018 at 1:36 pm, John DiTraglia said:

    Both “here’s” went to the same article.

    • January 24, 2018 at 4:44 pm, Ted said:

      Sorry about that, John. Link is correct now. Thanks for letting me know!

      Thanks for your perspective, Michael.

  2. January 24, 2018 at 4:19 pm, Michael said:

    Thanks Ted. I agree that the causal role of large portions is unclear. Observing (‘effortlessly’) thin people in an environment of large portions is interesting. They will rarely eat their plate clean, or eat the whole slice of birthday cake or feel the need to go back to the buffet. Seems like it is more to do with involuntary satiation than willpower. The casual observer (especially if they are thin) sometimes misinterprets the relative strength of these very different mechanisms of eating control.