Is Bigger Food Better?

The+Third+North+Courtyard+Cafe%2C+like+many+other+NYU+dining+halls%2C+is+a+buffet+style+dining+hall.+As+a+result%2C+students+may+take+large+amounts+of+food%2C+which+is+a+concern+for+obesity+rates.++

Ryan Quan

The Third North Courtyard Cafe, like many other NYU dining halls, is a buffet style dining hall. As a result, students may take large amounts of food, which is a concern for obesity rates.

By Drew Lederman, Staff Writer

If millennials learned anything from Sharpay Evans in “High School Musical,” it’s that “bigger is better and better is bigger — a little bit is never enough!” She’s no Raven, but she may have predicted the ominous future of American food trends.

With smoothie bowls, unicorn foods and purple bread dominating last year’s trends, a new food fascination has emerged: giant food. Most Americans are used to large portion sizes from chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, but these super-sized foods are more than big — they are giant.

Restaurants like BOWLMOR Lanes in Times Square serve food monstrosities such as two-foot long hot dogs and five-pound burgers. A seemingly insatiable American appetite, drive for Americans to get their money’s worth and tendency to clean the whole plate have led to unforeseen negative consequences for American health. The giant food trend simply perpetrates it.

According to the International Journal of Obesity, adults eat 92 percent of the food on their plate. We were taught as kids to finish everything, so when enlarged foods fill up one big plate, it poses a danger for those who tend to view one plate as one serving. Some restaurants even offer prizes for accomplishing this task.

Tisch freshman Cita Atwell has visited restaurants in San Antonio, Texas that serve large portion sizes.

“I can only eat two bites,” Attwell said. “But you see people coming in that eat it all just for the free t-shirt or the free meal.”

According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving sizes have grown exponentially over the past 20 years: hamburgers by 23 percent, a plate of Mexican food by 27 percent, soft drink serving sizes by 52 percent and snacks by 60 percent.

Samara Joy Nielsen, a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill, said in the press release that these are large increases, especially since this growth is paired with a rise in snacking.

“We think this is important information not only because it documents this trend, but also because obesity presents a growing health threat both in the United States and abroad,” Nielsen said in the press release.

Unfortunately, this trend favoring large portions has perpetuated obesity, which has been furiously on the rise. According to a 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two out of three American adults are considered either overweight or obese.

Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary, “Super Size Me,” illustrated some possible factors of this phenomenon. Americans tend to jump at the opportunity to save money by buying more than they need or purchasing their needed goods in bulk and family sizes. This idea of thriftiness backfires when consumers then eat more than intended due to the larger availability of food.

Steinhardt Public Health Professor Sally Guttmacher said that the giant food trend is senseless and demonstrates no sympathy for those who lack substantial, reliable food sources.

“Clearly, it’s not particularly healthy for the individual who participates,” Guttmacher said. “But what does it say about our concern for the many people in our country and planet who are barely getting enough to eat to stay alive?”

This idea that eating well equates to eating everything on your plate perpetuates overeating and obesity in the United States — the giant food trend is not only wasteful but is also dangerous to Americans’ health.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3rd print edition. Email Drew Lederman at [email protected]