First Calories, Then Portion Size -- Now Menu Wording

OK.  So there are the calories we have to count.  The fat and sodium content.  The portion size.  And now a new study is telling us we have to pay attention to how the menu is worded because that affects our portion size.

Can't we just eat a meal and enjoy it anymore?!

Newswise.com reports that a new study out of Cornell University says that the way restaurants describe a menu item makes us eat more, or less.

Consumers "use such labels to dictate how much food they think is a 'normal' portion, and then adjust their intake accordingly," according to the story.

"People are willing to pay more for a portion that sounds larger, but they also are apt to eat more of an enormous portion if they believe it is ‘regular’ to do so,” newswise.com quotes David R. Just, associate professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics. Just conducted the study with Brian Wansink, professor of marketing at Cornell. Both authors are affiliated with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

I love Robek's fruit smoothies but I have to laugh at their sizes.  A regular size serving is called a "junior" and a jumbo size, "regular."

The story points out that, in their study, Just and Wansink served study participants either one or two cups of spaghetti. "For some participants, the small and large portions were labeled 'half-size' and 'regular,' respectively, giving the impression that the larger two-cup portion was the norm."  Other participants received the same portions but theirs were labeled 'regular' and 'double-size – "implying that the smaller one-cup portion was the norm," the story says.

“These varying concepts of ‘regular’ portions made all the difference in how much people would spend and subsequently eat,” Just told newswise.com. “Participants ate much more when their portion was labeled 'regular than when it was labeled 'double-size.' In fact, participants who thought their portion was 'double-size' left 10 times the food on their plate.”

Wansink adds, “The huge impact of size labels suggests that both consumers and producers could benefit from standardization of food size-labeling.  Clearly defining the actual amount of food in a ‘small’ or a ‘large’ would inform customers of just how much food they are ordering every time they ask for a certain size. Until then, take the time to think about what portion you’re really getting when you order your standard ‘medium’ meal.”

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