Michael Pollan tells people to "take back control of your plate!"

control of plate
© Composite Image (original via Giuseppe Milo)

By controlling portion size and refusing to overeat, particularly in restaurants, we can reduce food waste and remind ourselves of the true value of food.

Michael Pollan has come out with yet another food rule, just in time for the holidays. He tells people to “take back control of your plate,” and by plate, he means portion size. At a time of year when people gorge themselves on vast quantities of festive holiday food, it can be tempting to load up your plate with far more food than you can possibly eat. The result is a shocking 204 million pounds of turkey that get thrown away during the American Thanksgiving season — $277 million worth of meat.

Holidays aside, we live in a culture where gigantic portions are the norm. Restaurants load up our plates with mountains of food, forcing clients into an awkward situation where we either eat way past the point of satiety (perhaps because we’ve paid for it with money, unaware that we’ll eventually pay for it with our health), or else return half-eaten plates for disposal, which contributes to the global crisis of food waste. An estimated 24 percent of food calories produced for human consumption are wasted, and that number is much higher in the U.S.

Pollan has an ambitious goal to revamp the restaurant system:

Gluttony is never pretty, but when a billion people in the world are hungry, it becomes unconscionable. So if you’re serving yourself, take no more than you know you can finish; err on the side of serving yourself too little, since you can always go back for seconds. When you’re at a restaurant that serves Brobdingnagian portions, tell your server you’d prefer a modest serving and the option of asking for more if it doesn’t satisfy.

To let others manipulate you by overfilling your plate is a wasteful concession to marketing and the very opposite of conscious eating. We need a movement to make reasonable portions and “seconds” the norm in restaurants. That way, the restaurant can still offer the perceived value of “all you can eat” but without the inevitable waste.

While it’s difficult to imagine conventional restaurants coming up with a way to provide second helpings to still-hungry eaters, it would benefit all people involved for restaurants just to start by offering smaller portions in general. You can do that at home, too, by not letting your eyes be bigger than your stomach, and saving leftovers for future meals, rather than trying to stuff it all in.

Most of us are incredibly fortunate to have access to such bountiful food here in North America, and the greatest way to show thanks and appreciation for it is to honour it by eating appropriately sized portions and savouring every bite.

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