Put Down That Fork, and Back Away from the Table!

Much attention is being paid these days, by the mainstream press and by politicians (is there really a difference?) to “Wall Street” greed.  If you Google the term, you get over 11 million hits.  The blame game is a popular one, and “greed” seems to be the Sin du Jour, with “Wall Street” being the favorite villain. I’m going to go out on a limb here, though, and comment on another of the Seven Deadly Sins, one which I would be willing to bet has a more personal impact on us.  “Gluttony” is a word derived from the Latin word gluttire, which means to gulp down or swallow.   We have elevated gulping down and swallowing to an art form in this country….with the results one would expect.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, 20 years ago a bagel was three inches in diameter and 140 calories; the average bagel is now six inches in diameter and 350 calories.  In the same time period, a fast food cheeseburger has grown from 333 calories to 590 calories, and a “serving” of spaghetti and meatballs has ballooned from 500 calories to a whopping 1,025.

I decided to look up the calorie content of my favorite dish at Olive Garden, since I just had lunch there.   I love their Chicken Marsala – not bad, 770 calories, since I usually take home half of it to eat for leftovers.  But then you add breadsticks at 150 calories each (each?  I’m supposed to only eat one?) and that yummy salad at 290 calories per serving (but it’s an endless bowl and I have to get my money’s worth, right?).  You can see how these things escalate.

I did find some good news, though.  My personal addiction, sweet tea, weighs in at 180 calories in a 21-ounce serving – 21 ounces, because we never turn down those free refills, do we?  But a typical 5-ounce restaurant pour of red wine is only 125 calories and way more fun than sweet tea.

Even the size of our plate has increased; the surface area of the average dinner plate has increased 36% since 1960, from 7 to 9 inches to 11 to 12 inches across.  Folks, 12 inches is not a “plate,” it’s a “charger,” and you aren’t supposed to put the food directly on it.  Maybe we’re just confused about proper china usage and we could all use a seminar taught by the experts at Replacements.

Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction in this country is to regulate portion sizes in the restaurant industry.  Let’s try, just once, to be grownups.  There are things we can do to take responsibility in this situation.

First, ask for smaller portions.  Do you think the restaurant management really wants to put this much food on our plates?  They do it to be competitive; if enough people demand healthier portions, the market will take care of it.  Second, share entrees; my husband and I do it all the time.  Or, if you can’t agree on a single entrée, take half of it home for lunch the next day.  If you don’t have the willpower to only eat half, ask for your to-go box up front and pack up half your food before you start eating.

What will you do with all that money you save by doing this?  We can help you there!  If you eat out and take the leftovers for lunch just twice a week, you’ll save about $600 to $800 per year – that’s a hefty amount to add to your retirement plan.  And we greedy Wall-Streeters can help you with the investment!