The Associated Press on a government-commissioned report that's being released today:
The government is trying to enlist the help of the nation's eateries in fighting obesity. One of the first things on their list: cutting portion sizes.
The report, requested and funded by the Food and Drug Administration, lays out ways to help people manage their intake of calories from the growing number of meals prepared away from home.
The report encourages restaurants to shift the emphasis of their marketing to lower-calorie choices, and include more such options on menus. In addition, restaurants could jigger portion sizes and the variety of foods available in mixed dishes to reduce the overall number of calories taken in by diners.
The 136-page report prepared by The Keystone Center, an education and public group based in Keystone, Colo., said Americans now consume fully one-third of their daily intake of calories outside the home. And as of 2000, the average American took in 300 more calories a day than was the case 15 years earlier, according to Agriculture Department statistics cited in the report.
Today, 64 percent of Americans are overweight, including the 30 percent who are obese, according to the report. It pegs the annual medical cost of the problem at nearly $93 billion.
The recommendations jibe with the views of Marion Nestle, a nutritionist, consumer food advocate and author "What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating." I interviewed her last month.
Here are some of Nestle's quotes:
"So in a restaurant, they're about selling food. There are lots of things they can do to still make money and make it possible for people to eat more healthfully."
"I want them to give a price-break for smaller portions. They don't have to sell a half-size portion at half price. They can sell it at 70 percent. But I want them to have some sort of incentive for people to eat less, particularly in those big chain restaurants where they serve humongous portions."
"I'm not asking them to force-feed customers smaller portions. I'm asking them to offer a choice. You don't see those choices. Instead, you see situations where there is a penalty for sharing a meal. The waiter treats you badly if you only order an appetizer, and by my standards appetizers are dinner-sized portions for me at this point in my life. The entire thing is set up so that you take in more calories than you need or want."
"I think they could serve kids healthier food and let's teach kids in restaurants to eat like adults. It'll be good for them."