Dish Wish: Don’t Fill It

Folks often ask me how they can avoid food waste at home. After I joke that they can stop buying brussels sprouts, I suggest they serve less food on each plate. (See The Weekly Waste Word category for more tips.) 

photo by Niall Kennedy (via Flickr)That way, there’s a better chance diners won’t leave behind uneaten food, much of which isn’t saved. You can always serve seconds and, it turns out, people won’t miss the larger portions.

America’s favorite food psychologist Brian Wansink provides the hard data here. As Wansink writes in his engrossing book, Mindless Eating:

In most of our studies, people can eat 20 percent less without noticing it. If they eat 30 percent less, they realize it, but 20 percent is still under the radar screen.

Smaller portions resonate on campus, where wasting food and overeating seem like double majors. In particular, the University of Massachusetts’ “Small Plate/Big Flavor” program has cut serving size by up to one-third. In June, UMass will host a conference pushing the idea, so there’s hope that it will spread. 

The bad news: reduced portions will likely still come with larger prices due to rising food costs, inflation and the inevitable annual college price hikes. The good news: both smaller servings and increased prices will encourage less wasted food.

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