Women eat more when they dine with men, says Safefood

They don’t want to appear obsessed with calories while men eat more as sign of manhood


Women increase their portion sizes when they eat with men because they don’t want to appear to be mean with food or give the impression that they constantly count calories, new research has found.

The Safefood research on portion sizes also found that men viewed eating as “a test of manhood” which dissuaded them from seeking smaller portion sizes. The research found that the size of some products had increased significantly over a 10-year period.

The portion size of unpackaged Danish pastries and muffins was four times greater in 2010/2011 when compared with the late 1990s while there was a threefold increase in the portion size of croissants, fruit scones, eclairs and jam doughnuts. However, plain scones reduced in size by 18 per cent.

When it came to takeaway foods, doner kebab portion sizes increased by 177 per cent, while battered sausages had almost doubled in size over the same period.

The Safefood report Consumer Understanding of Food Portion Sizes was led by researchers from the University of Ulster and involved more than 1,000 participants. Researchers noted many participants believed portion size control was only relevant for dieters and that it didn’t apply to treat foods.

Weight-loss attempts

It also found that claims such as “low fat” or “reduced fat” may also be leading to weight gain because people eat more, assuming the products are lower in calories than they really are. When presented with foods that were perceived to be “healthier”, researchers found that people tended to underestimate the calorie count.

The participants were given two types of coleslaw – reduced-fat and a standard version – and the researchers noted they served larger portions of the reduced-fat coleslaw because it was associated with “guiltless eating”.

Safefood’s director of human health and nutrition, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, said some of the blame could lie with how people were reared. “Traditionally, we’ve been brought up to finish everything on our plate and we tend to equate bigger portions with generosity and value.

“But with two in three adults overweight or obese, the issue of portion size is relevant to all of us and we need to cut down on the portions we’re eating of most foods.”

She noted that eating an extra 100 calories a day could lead to weight gain of 4.5kg in one year. “We know from previous research that some takeaway portions contain enough food for two people while the portion size of some manufactured products have increased significantly since the 1990s.

“And when it comes to foods with a halo of being somehow healthier, these are viewed as a licence to enjoy a bigger portion.”

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