LONDON — Once again, I’m leaving Europe lighter than when I came.
After eating out every meal for more than two weeks, the clothes still fit. One possible explanation hasn’t escaped my notice. Despite its reputation for bad cuisine, English food has at least one thing going for it: There’s less of it.
The amount of food served at meals is small by American standards.
That observation has emerged as a theme whether the meal is at a personal home, pub, chain or other restaurant.
I’ve eaten Indian, Asian, Italian and British meals, including party food and conference fare.
I’ve gone away full every time but never stuffed. Here are what I think are some of the reasons:
Food is more expensive. There are fewer taxpayer-funded price supports and subsidies for agricultural products in Europe as compared to the U.S.
That keeps food closer to its real cost. It makes you think twice before ordering a $6 side or a $9 dessert or a second glass of wine for $15.
And no free refills on that $4 cup of coffee.
Portions are smaller. My lunch one day came with my choice of side: salad, fries (called “chips” over here) or a jacket potato topped with cheese and beans.
I asked for the salad but was brought the fries. There were approximately eight of them, scattered to the side like remnants from another table’s meal.
Yes, I sent them back and got my greens, but it left an impression. I would have gotten a pile of fries five times as big at home.
Fillers are fewer. Plates tend not to be loaded with extras such as potato chips, fries and garnishes.
At one meal I had a hankering for an omelet. The menu said it came with salad or potatoes. Not both. If I wanted toast? I’d have to order it separately.
Plates and glasses are smaller. It’s an old Weight Watchers trick that works. The smaller portion fills up the plate and helps you finish the meal satisfied with less.
And I was.
Eating less and getting a daily workout of walking did me some good.
The visit demonstrated a simple thing to remember: Most of us just eat too much.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.