Americans clean their plates, no matter how full

July 23, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Americans clean their plates, no matter how full

Most Americans clean their plates, no matter how full those plates are, according to a survey released last week.

The findings, released by the American Institute for Cancer Research, add to the debate over how much restaurants and fast-food outlets are contributing to the epidemic of obesity in the United States and elsewhere.

The institute's survey found that 69% of those polled finish their meals most or all of the time, even when the portions are huge. Almost one-third of Americans now say they generally base the amount of food they eat on the amount they are served.

The report compiled information from two surveys involving 1,000 adults each. One was conducted in 2000 and the other in 2003. In 2000, 7 percent of those surveyed said they ate their entire meal all the time when dining at full-service restaurants. That number rose to 37 percent in 2003.

Scientific studies show that people can and do unconsciously consume more calories--as much as 56 percent more--when served larger portions. It cited a study published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that found in 1955, a single order of fries weighed 2.4 ounces, compared to 7.1 ounces now.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers said people ate 30 percent more macaroni and cheese when given the largest of four different portions. Fewer than half of those tested noticed the differences in the portions they were served.

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