Portion Control and Your Finances

by Kevin on June 5, 2008

I take 2-4 clients out to lunch every week. This means I am eating out in restaurants of various quality several times per month. It isn’t very easy to stay on the healthy side of the menu, either. I love my hamburgers, chicken wings, fries, and fajitas.

I eat out a lot, and I get to see the portion sizes at a large selection of restaurants. One thing is certain. Here in America, portion sizes have increased dramatically over the years. Literally at every lunch, I could take home half the food and eat it for dinner. Look at Coca-Cola bottle sizes over the years to emphasize the point:

I think the effect would be greater if the horizontal plane was straight… it definitely slopes down to the right, making the bottles in the middle look to be about the same height. Look at the jump in 1994! Remember, a serving size is 8 or 12 oz. (can’t remember which), but they give you a 20 oz. bottle. And you drink it merrily.

I go to Chili’s occassionally, and it used to be a favorite of my wife and I when we were dating. We always order the chicken quesadillas (chicken and cheese, no onions please). When I take a client to lunch there, I can order the same thing, and eat the left overs for dinner. But Mr. Average American doesn’t do that. He sees food on the plate, and scarfs it down. I can’t begin to imagine eating the quesadillas by myself.

Over indulgence packs it on

Let me paint a visual for you: one large plate, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream piled in the middle. One half of the plate stacked with fries. The other half of the plate ringed with 8 triangles of quesadilla goodness. I tried to look the item up on the nutritional guide, but couldn’t find it listed (I may just be missing it). Another item I frequently get on client lunches is the Cajun Chicken Pasta. Gulp. Here’s the skinny on that meal:

1 serving, 1500 calories, 78 grams of fat, 39 grams of saturated fat, and 3,040 milligrams of sodium.

Yuck! And I can easily eat that all by myself. 1 serving? That’s disgusting. 1,500 calories! Compare the above items to the recommended daily intake on a 2,000 calorie diet… 65g of fat, 20g of saturated fat, and 2400 mg of sodium. In one meal you knock out 3/4 of your available calories for the day, and go way over your sodium intake.

If you could keep your willpower and stick with portion control, it still isn’t a great meal, but it isn’t a terrible meal. Cut all of the above numbers in half and you’d probably get a C minus on the report card.

Add in the fact that we don’t exercise any more because we’re too busy…

No wonder we are all getting fat.

What does this have to do with finance?


There are several ways to link portion control to your finances:

  • directly – eating too much food costs you more money in food
  • directly – eating too much and gaining weight will most likely cost you more money in healthcare costs in the future
  • indirectly – if you can’t maintain proper boundaries — portion control — you may be spending more than you earn, or spending frivolously

And that third point is what we’ll talk about tomorrow. Stay tuned. (Grab an RSS or e-mail subscription in case you forget to come back.)

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Sara June 5, 2008 at 8:31 am

What drives me really crazy about these huge portions is that people will tell me I eat like a bird when I don’t clear my 5-serving plate!

Portions are definitely out of control in most restaurants. And my willpower in a restaurant, where I’m surrounded by pleasant distractions and good conversation, is much less than at home. Good thing we don’t eat out too often!

PT June 5, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Mrs. PT and I try and split most meals as well. It’s a great practice and reminds you to eat slow and chew the food completely.

She’s half my size and can equal my intake. Don’t know where she puts it.

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