Offering smaller portions

The motto of many restaurants in regard to portions has been: Build it higher, and they will eat it. And it works.

Unfortunately, that approach may also be a major contributor to increased obesity nationwide. Now, however, a number of restaurants, including some of the well-known national chains, are making an effort to be more socially responsible and at least offer diners an alternative.

The effort is not entirely altruistic. Restaurants are beginning to realize that customers are trying to scale back on what they eat and eliminate some of the more decadent aspects of their diet, so there is money to be made with smaller portions.

But the result may be laudatory just the same. Many restaurants have not only downsized the portions but also the price. While that may not be as immediately profitable as enticing diners to order the monster-sized meal, it may tempt more light eaters to come to the restaurant and to come more often.

The big surprise for customers is that they are likely to be satisfied with the smaller portions. Scientific studies have shown that people tend to eat what's on their plate whether they are full or not. We naturally tend to clean our plates, just like our mothers told us to.

The result, however, is that we have come to regard giant portions as the normal amount of food we are expected to be served when we go to a restaurant. The result: higher rates of obesity.

The medical community is hoping people will readjust their idea of what constitutes enough food on the plate. Eventually, maybe we will be satisfied with less.

And restaurants, if nothing else, can cut back on doggy bags.

Many restaurants have begun offering smaller portions for customers worried about obesity.