Our frame of reference on meal size is changing. Observations hint that restaurant meal size are increasing (1) and we know that larger portions make you eat more (2, 3). To see if this also is true for home-cooked meals, four researchers went out to study if portion sizes measured in calories in Danish cookbook recipes have changed throughout the past 100 years (4).
Portion size measured in calories was determined by content-analysis of 21 classic Danish recipes in 13 editions of the famous Danish cookbook “Food” from 1909 to 2009. Calorie content of the recipes was determined in standard nutritional software, and the changes in calories were examined by simple linear regression analyses.
Mean portion size in calories increased significantly by 21% (β = 0.63; p < 0.01) over the past 100 years in the analyzed recipes. The mean portion size in calories from a composed homemade meal increased by 77% (β = 2.88; p < 0.01). The mean portion size in calories from meat increased by 27% (β = 0.85; p = 0.03), starchy products increased by 148% (β = 1.28; p < 0.01), vegetables increased by 37% (β = 0.21; p = 0.13) and sauce increased by 47% (β = 0.56; p = 0.02) throughout the years.
As you can see, portion sizes have increased significantly during the years. One common recommendation to counteract this is to use a smaller plate (5). This is thought to be due to the Delboeuf illusion which you can see below. When two circles of identical size have been placed near to each other and one is surrounded by another circle, it appears smaller.
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2: Fisher JO, Kral TV. Super-size me: Portion size effects on young children’s eating. Physiol Behav. 2008;94(1):39–47.
3: Orlet fisher J, Rolls BJ, Birch LL. Children’s bite size and intake of an entrée are greater with large portions than with age-appropriate or self-selected portions. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(5):1164–70.
4: Eidner MB, Lund AS, Harboe BS, Clemmensen IH. Calories and portion sizes in recipes throughout 100 years: an overlooked factor in the development of overweight and obesity?. Scand J Public Health. 2013;41(8):839–45.
5: Wansink B, Van ittersum K. Portion size me: plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2013;19(4):320–32.