This morning, as always, just about the first thing I did when I got up was make coffee. As it dripped through the filter, I did a few morning chores, putting out the recycling and putting away last night’s dishes from the dish rack. Then I reached for my favourite mug, and stopped.
That mug holds about 325 mL of coffee (12 oz.). Not a bad size, but I tend to drink coffee either while I’m writing or while I’m reading…and I rarely finish the cup. Usually the last quarter-mug or so goes down the sink, and I start again. And I know this is the case – so why do I keep using that mug?
It’s not just at home. I tend to order the medium size from take-out places – and I never finish those, either. What an incredibly bad and wasteful habit! And why am I just thinking about it now? It’s not like BD hasn’t been bugging me about it for thirty-five years. (Actually, he has been bugging me about drinking coffee, period. He hates the stuff – the taste and the smell. He drinks it under protest at the end of overnight flights if he needs to drive, and that’s it. And perhaps I’ve grown so inured to his complaints about coffee in general I didn’t listen to the specifics. A point I need to consider.)
So now I’m sitting here at my computer with a smaller cup of coffee…and I’ve finished it. Too small a sample size to draw any conclusions, of course. But it’s got me thinking about portion sizes in general.
Portion size creep and its effects on the health of populations has been well documented for restaurant meals and packaged foods. I remain annoyed at one of my favourite bistros whose burger – and I love an occasional, well-made, burger – remains at half-a-pound. It’s just too big. A friend and I share it, occasionally, when we lunch there. Large portions are either eaten, increasing calorie, fat, and sodium intake beyond what is reasonable for most people, or it’s wasted. But restaurant portion creep has also affected what we see as a reasonable meal size in our homes.
I’ve been reviewing our meals in my mind as I write this. BD needs more food than I do, and he is by no stretch of the imagination over-fed. I, on the other hand, could stand to lose some inches. But we tend to eat the same amount of food at dinner, and at brunch. Otherwise, no. But while three blueberry pancakes and three turkey breakfast sausages are appropriate for him at brunch, are they for me? Or am I eating that much just because it looks ‘right’ on the plate? Meals based around pasta, quinoa or couscous are simply split between two bowls; occasionally I keep some of mine back for lunch the next day, but not as often as I should.
As fall approaches, and we eat more slow-cooker meals, I can see this as even more of an issue – it’s just too easy to fill up two bowls with chili or stew without really thinking about it. I’m not worried about what I eat – our vegetable-and-fruit rich diet, low in meat, fat, added sugar, and sodium, is pretty healthy. But it’s still quite possible to eat too much of healthy foods. So I think it’s time to introduce a new discipline into my life – that of being mindful of how much food I am taking.
Michael Pollan summed up what he believes our approach to food should be in seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. It’s those middle three words I need to take more seriously, for my own health and that of the planet. I’ll let you know how it goes.