Monday, July 4, 2016

{Eating} 30 Chic Days – The Fourth Series: Day 27

Restaurant Cristal Room, Paris

French Girl Portion Sizes

In refining what I eat and working out what does and doesn’t work for me, I’ve discovered that what I always thought of as a decent-sized meal may actually be too big for me.  I have this thing that I love to feel full and don’t like the feeling of being unsatisfied if I don’t have a very big meal. 

When I am handed a plate if I am eating out or being served to at home, my eyes immediately scan it and my involuntary thought is either ‘that’s not much’ or ‘yay, my plate is nice and full’.  Whatever I am handed, whether it’s dinner, a coffee or dessert, if it looks huge I feel really happy.  I can’t help it! 

My meals can be needlessly large.  I sometimes feel stuffed after dinner as I don’t like leaving things on my plate.  I also don’t like waste.  Occasionally I will finish my dinner without eating everything on my plate and save it to have with the next day's lunch salad, but often it’s not an appropriate dinner to save as leftovers, or we already have a fridge-full at work of everything we need for lunches.

A better solution is to serve myself a smaller portion.  I only ever have a small amount of protein, such as one sausage if it’s bangers and mash, or half a chicken breast or one chicken thigh cutlet or one tiny piece of eye fillet steak, but I can cut back on the vegetables a little bit.

In my mind, because the brightly coloured vegetables are ‘free’ on Weight Watchers points and healthy, I have a big pile.  And it’s not the calories but the feeling that bothers me.  They still fill up your stomach too much if you have a lot.

Same with my fresh fruit breakfast.  I have a massive bowl in the mornings and then add yoghurt and nuts, then have a milky coffee.  Yes, it gets me through to lunch, but even if I reduce it by 25% in size I will feel more comfortable physically after breakfast.

And as for my internal momentary disappointment when I see that a plateful of food ‘isn’t very big’ I can embrace that more petite portion as my French girl serving size.

I think this step of addressing portion size comes after I have had some success tweaking my food choices and adding more fresh components.  That way I don’t feel too deprived if I go from large quantities of fun food to small quantities of healthy food all at once.  One step at a time.

I don’t feel like I am not eating much to want to be skinny, but that I am going easy on my body by not asking it to work so hard processing the huge portion I have eaten.  I’ve heard many times that our stomach is the size of our fist, but I choose to forget it conveniently.  When you look at your clenched fist it is not that big! 

And the key to getting through to the next meal, I know, is protein.  So a small meal of carbohydrates will not satisfy, but add protein and it will.  That’s why I have a coffee made entirely with milk in the morning, always have some kind of cooked, lean meat on my salad at lunchtime and meat with dinner.

Years ago when I used to go to the gym, a personal trainer after asking me to write down what I ate over a typical week, said I did not have enough protein in my diet. So I've always been very conscious about including a portion of lean protein in my three meals a day.

How do you think your portion sizes look?  What would your ideal French girl say if she saw what you served yourself up?  It would be funny if we could let other people see into our kitchens and if we could see into theirs, just to see what a 'normal' portion size looks like.  I suppose we already can do that actually - it's called Instagram!


  1. Now that my husband and I are older (yay, we're old!) we don't have large appetites, and so when we eat out we often have only a starter each and a glass of mineral water and stil feel satisifed or, if we wish to push the culinary boat out, we might then share a dessert.

    If we don't have a starter each, we sometimes have a main course and ask for two plates and share the meal. Husband didn't like doing this to start with, he was embarrassed by asking for one meal and two plates, but I said if we wanted to eat the main of our choice and we knew that the portions would be too large for us, it was just a sensible thing to do! No restaurant has ever been 'difficult' over this, so this is one tip I'd like to pass on, even if you are dining with a friend who, similarly has a small appetite or is trying to lose weight.

    As for portions, they do seem to get larger and larger, do they not? Jennifer L Scott on her lovely blog (The Daily Connoisseur) mentioned this recently, when she showed her readers a modern dinner plate compared with an 'antique' one (well, one from the 1930s, but to a young person that might be considered antiques!) which was was much smaller. Also, modern plates are seldom 'dished' with a 'well' for the food and are without a rim, so they can be filled with food right to the edge of the plate. I think that large plates filled with food actually look gross, and too-large portions of anything are actually off-putting (well, they are for me).

    And so, if you wish to cut down on portion sizes, for whatever reason, I would say the first step would be to have a smaller plate than you have been using. Also not to be embarrassed about sharing a main course with partner/husband/friend, or having two starters instead of a starter and a main, or even a starter and a dessert (or shared dessert.)
    Margaret P

  2. Bonjour Fiona

    Ah yes! Restraint as to what both comes out of the mouth and then the portions that go into the mouth will make for an elegant chic mademoiselle whatever her age or station!

    These two chic habits are definitely ones I endeavour to cultivate daily.


  3. Hi Fiona
    Eating large portions is just a habit. After you have eaten smaller portions for a while, you become satisfied with them so long as you are eating a varied diet both in terms of nutrients and tastes. Eventually you will find a huge plate of food quite an unpleasant prospect. My French father taught us to eat modest portions, have a bit of everything, do not have seconds and do not eat between meals.

  4. Another wonderful posting, Fiona. I had a French girl portion-size lesson when I visited Paris a few years ago. I met up for breakfast with another American lady who was staying with her son's family in Paris for the summer (he was working in Paris for an American firm and his apartment had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower -- why didn't I plan ahead and have such a son?) and as a long-time visitor to France, my friend was familiar with French portion sizes. She was horrified when our omelettes arrived at the table (prepared and served by the friendly woman who ran the cafe and had been serving my coffee every morning there for the past week). She thought they were "American sized" rather than "French sized." To me, they looked like modest-sized omelettes, maybe even on the smaller size! Certainly not the monsters served up in most American restaurants. Anyway, her reaction made me realize that although I thought I knew our portion sizes were too large, I didn't REALLY know just how oversized they are!

    Recently I have been trying to generally downsize my serving portions, but that is still a work in progress. For instance, apparently I am used to ordering the largest coffee possible, so ordering a medium or small feels a bit strange -- but VERY chic! I should add I only have coffee out once or twice in a month, probably, but I am still trying to "please my French aunt," as you suggested, Fiona!

    The struggle continues with food portion sizes, as well. I have found that consciously thinking at the beginning of the meal about how unwell I feel when I've overeaten is helping.

    I am loving this series. I hope another 30 day round will be coming soon!

  5. Oh, I see that the time stamp on my comment that I just posted is July 5 at 1:10 am. As it is really 9:10 am on July 4 (our Independence Day), that must be NZ time!

  6. I was just having a conversation yesterday about portion sizes. As one gets older, large portions really are uncomfortable. I hate the overfull feeling and my mum just can't eat that much. I am very conscious of protein as well because I am not a big meat-eater.

  7. Hi Fiona, you haven't got there yet but we get to an age where we feel so much more comfortable eating less. Unfortunately for me, my body hasn't twigged that I'm eating less :-(!
    PP x.

  8. Hi Fiona, I so agree with you about portions & your portion sizes of meat are what I eat! I get out of sync when eating out, though. First because I have to be so careful, having a tomato allergy. And 2nd, because I try to "fit in" with everyone, & I order a meal which is always too big, & which I always feel that I must finish to get my money's worth, & to be "a good girl"....both of which are silly, I know. After, I always berate myself for not just having a stater & side salad. My new decision this week was to have a good size serve of greens everyday, something all nzers did when I was growing up, with the daily serve of silverbeet, before I add extra vegies.

  9. Margaret, thanks for your useful tips, however I think if I tried to get my husband to share a main with me, there would be an uproar :) I loved Jennifer L. Scott's vintage/modern dish comparison. It was eye-opening! And you're right, our modern dinner set goes right to the edge, whereas my Nana's dinner set that I love to use has a wide rim that you wouldn't put food on. Interesting!

    Lorraine, restraint, yes! Rather than plate up food for myself, it will be easier to imagine I am plating up for an elegant French lady who is staying with us. I wouldn't want to serve her a big pile of food :)

    Nicole, that makes great sense, and I love your French father's lessons.

    Gail, how funny about the omelettes and thanks for your Paris snippet (and your comment about planning ahead for such a son,haha). Maybe you don't have to go from giant to tiny sized coffee, just order the next size down. Try to squash the 'but the biggest size is only X cents more!' which is always my reasoning downfall.

    I do that too - my plate of dinner looks 'just' big enough but half way through I'm struggling. That's when I need to stop eating. Aah, Gail, I'd love to do more 30 Chic Days Series but this one has almost killed me :)

    Yes, you are in New Zealand time when you visit How to be Chic!

    Madame and PP, I'm definitely finding that my stomach becomes quite uncomfortable with bigger portions too, so I'm listening to myself. Lessening carby foods and increasing protein is the key, but protein is never as fun to eat as carbs, is it?

  10. Ratnamurti, I can't leave food either, it feels so wasteful. But if I eat something I don't need or want, I'm wasting it in a more self-punishing way by making my body the rubbish bin! Having that awful picture sometimes helps me make a different decision.

    A starter and salad is a great idea.

  11. I think we were taught to 'eat up, children are starving in Africa' by our parents, but really, being made to eat up at an early age is a hot line to obesity. My husband was made to eat up to the point that once when out with friends having tea, he was made to eat up a toasted tea cake when he was full and he was promptly sick and it put him off a very nice food item until recent times.

    It isn't wasteful to leave some food on the plate, it just means you've been given too much. If you're full and you over eat you will either get fat or be sick, simple as that. In some cultures it's always polite to leave something on the plate because then it shows you've been given enough; if you eat up, it might suggest you could have eaten more and therefore you've not been given sufficient. So, even if you still have some food on your plate but you're had enough, for goodness sake, people, leave it!
    Margaret P

  12. Margaret P - I have left a lengthy response to your comment in Day 25 xx

  13. Fiona I agree with your writings - again :)

    We have a plain white dinner setting from Maxwell and Williams (?) which I bought about six years ago. I bought noodle bowls, a gravy boat, etc to go with it when on sale. As part of these ' extras' I purposely bought four large noodle bowls and four smaller. The smaller bowls are for me (breakfast muesli, laksa, stir fries, etc) and hubbie uses the larger bowls. He has a much larger appetite and is physically active so burns it all off. Guests get to choose which sized bowl they prefer. The bowls are the same colour, design and shape so I don't feel as if I am missing out on anything. I much prefer to have a small portion and go back for seconds if I'm still hungry.

    I, too, was indoctrinated as a child that wasting food was a sin and it took me decades to be able to throw out uneaten food. When I had dogs, they would happily eat any leftovers. Problem solved. But I haven't had a dog for over a decade. Thesedays I am similar to one of the other readers in that I would rather put it in the bin (green waste bin in our council area) than have it sit on my hips / bum / thighs. Buying clothes in a larger size is expensive and wasteful to me.

    I usually order two entrees if dining out and my companions are having two courses - one as my entree and the other as my main. Otherwise I will just have a main. Dessert is rare but if I really really really want it then I will share with others. You only need two or three spoonfuls anyway. After that any more never tastes as good as those first morsels. Restaurants are happy to bring additional spoons when asked. Sharing a dessert also helps to keep down the price of dining out. Win-win !

  14. I totally understand the need for protein. I don't feel satisfied without it. I started paying more attention to my portion sizes after reading Mireille Guillano's website. She has an article on portion sizes that tells you what one portion looks like per person. A piece of fish should be about the size of a reading glasses case, a piece of chicken the size of your fist, etc. I've been realizing I definitely eat too much at once - sometimes almost twice the size!

    I always try to remember that it feels (and looks) much more chic to go back for a second helping only if you need it, rather than overload your plate and force yourself to eat it all, or leave it sitting there to be wasted because you were overzealous when serving yourself.

  15. Lara - thank you for your comments on Day 25. Yes, I agree, we are all beautiful and I shall make the best of what I have (well, this is what I've always attempted to do, of course.) Thank you for telling us about your lovely chic grandmother, too. What an inspiration she was for you.
    And also, Fiona, I perhaps phrased my wording incorrectly when I mentioned blogs being a possible waste of time. I have to say some are positive way of time utilization (your own, for example, from which we can really enjoy each others' - I m mean all of us reading it, as well as yourself - company; but some I will give up reading simply because they are depressing (but again, that doesn't mean I'm a Pollyana, I just don't want to read about people's woes, that the washing got rained on, that the Broadband engineer didn't arrive, etc)
    Your blog is a breath of fresh air each day.
    Margaret P

  16. I've been enjoying your 30-day series - all excellent subjects - and today's hits home for me. I need to be more aware of my portion sizes. I do not like feeling overly full, and try to remember to stop eating before feeling full and wait for my brain to catch up with my stomach. I've heard that it takes a few minutes for your body to register the fact that you've eaten enough. I've enjoyed reading comments from others, too. Thank you so much!

  17. Margaret, I find it very hard to leave anything on my plate, even a pea!

    Lara, I've never felt brave enough to order two entrees, silly I know. Mostly I order a main, no entree.

    Anna, those portion size memory-joggers are really useful.

    Margaret, I know you didn't mean that about all blogs and I agree, there are blogs or online groups which love to complain or put others down. But even with so many good blogs it's easy to find that times flies by!

    Pammie, it's a strange one, the stomach/brain connection and I'm always surprised (again) when it proves itself!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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