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Differences Between France and America: Portion Sizes

big portion sizes in america

My daughter enjoying a ‘baby’ scoop ice cream cone.

Differences France to America: Small versus Large Portions

We spend all summer in America, well, specifically in New Jersey on the sandy beaches, enjoying crabs and clams, the sun and heat, the diversity of New Jerseyans.  It is so nice to return to our roots and family after spending the rest of the year in France.  I was thinking of what to write about this summer while spending the two months here.  It is not an easy summer.  My dad is still sick and weak and is recovering from a bad bout of pneumonia in April plus the effects of his devastating stroke.  There are so many health topics I would love to share here to continue to encourage everyone to take control of  their personal health! But it hit me a couple of days ago, after laughing and enjoying a huge ice cream cone, labeled small; when it was really huge. Yes, this summer I will write little stories about our cultural “shocks” or differences between living in France and America and the impact of these differences on our health.  I am very happy to present part 1 on portion sizes.

Part 1 of the Summer Series:  Differences between France and America; Portion Sizes

Gotta love the portion sizes here in America, you really get your money’s worth.  Took the kids to play miniature golf today, at a fun place that was connected to an ice cream take out.  How so cool, how so American!  After playing a long round of miniature golf it was time to get the ice cream cones.  So many flavors to choose from, yet my kids only like the basics:  vanilla or strawberry.  My oldest says that the other funky flavors like cotton candy or moose tracks taste so “synthetic.” So, we order the boring flavors, and portion size: small, and I am emphasizing SMALL because what a shock when the cones were handed over to us.  They each looked like the Tower of Pisa, and each cone must have had at least 4 scoops of ice cream on them.  My 11-year-old daughter said “These would be like extra-large in France!” and I thought “no, maybe like extra extra large.” You know, I do get shocked on how big  American portion sizes are and find it sometimes almost over the limit on finding food appetizing when it is so much of it presented at one time.  And for our ice cream cones…how do you take home an unfinished ice cream cone?  (Should you even leave an ice cream cone unfinished)?  But my four and six year old kids just couldn’t finish them and left most of it to melt.  Everything here is big in America, including the take out coffees, drinks, dinner entree,  why?  What happened along the way that we want and can actually finish these huge portions?  Do you agree with me?  Do you find the portions too big? Or do you think that we pay a lot and should have these oversized items?  Compared to France, the food and drinks served over here in New Jersey are  just so much bigger.  Are too big portion sizes adding to our obesity problems, especially in children?  I think so.  But the consumer asks for this, so the demand is there.  The customer is king!

Yes, the customer is king (or queen!) Our ice creams were served with a huge smile, and a frozen gummy bear on top, and a caring employee who brought out to our table a bowl of samples of all the “non-boring” ice cream flavors that my kids didn’t want to try.  He was so friendly, which is a good transition to:   Part II Summer Series:  Differences Between France and America; Service With A Smile-coming up in a few days!

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5 Responses to Differences Between France and America: Portion Sizes

  1. Dee July 12, 2012 at 14:30 #

    Haha… In Houston I ordered a small smoothie from Smoothie King!– that would be an extra large in Port of Spain… I still drank ALL of it tho 🙁

    • mbrighton July 13, 2012 at 04:18 #

      WOW…never heard of smoothie king…Yes, in Houston I can imagine these portion sizes… Thanks for letting me know and keep reading and commenting!

  2. Robin August 2, 2010 at 00:48 #

    I love your blog!! We were just in Canada for several weeks, we go there every year, and the differences, while subtle, are very noticeable. The food is FAR better in Canada, the people are happier, the life is simpler, etc…. I did notice the portion difference a couple of times but we normally would do the table d’hote making it not a real issue. They also tend to serve only water at the front part of the meal with coffee at the end, same with salad, and having read your “Why French Women Aren’t Overweight” it made me wonder how much just these small differences can change things. I did lose weight, not that much, while we were in Canada this year and I felt SO so much better than I normally do. We’re trying hard here to imitate some of the foods and activities we enjoyed there and live in hope that we can continue at least some of the sense of health and well-being we had in Canada 🙂 Looking forward to reading your next entry!

    • mbrighton August 4, 2010 at 17:13 #

      Dear Robin,
      Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement. Traveling and experiencing different cultures always opens a person’s mind to discovering new adventures, ideas and various ways to live. Canada is a beautiful country…depending on where you travel you can also be integrated into the French culture up there (in Montreal or Quebec for example).
      I feel that lifestyle changes are critical for long term good health, including of course what we eat and how we eat it. These small differences, such as eating the main meal for lunch, as the French do…can add up in the long term.
      Stay tuned…these next entry about differences between French and American main meal times is coming up very soon!
      Merci beaucoup! and keep feeling good….Mary


  1. Suzanne Saxe-R, Ed.D - July 5, 2010

    Differences Between France and America; Portion Sizes: Portion sizes are one of the differences between France and…

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