Portion Control Strategy for the Firehouse (or any house).

Cooking in the firehouse is pretty difficult.  One of the biggest fears of every firehouse chef is not preparing enough food for the crew.  This fear usually leads to an excess of available food and larger portions around the table.  So, today I wanted to give you a quick and easy “trick” you can use to get your crew to take smaller servings.  This post was inspired by a conversation had with one of the great people in the fire service, retired FDNY Chief Salka .  Click the video to hear and learn from his experience on eating in the firehouse.

To elaborate on the points made in the video.  Take a look at the picture below and answer this question:  Which is the larger black circle – the left or the right?

Does the one on the right side look larger to you?  Yes?

If you said that the one on the right is larger, you are wrong.  The correct answer is that they’re both the same size!

Interestingly, this silly perception problem could be causing you and your crew to eat more food.   Most firehouses not only serve an abundance of food but they usually serve them on large plates.  Lets be honest, it does feel too good to heap your plate when you’re starving at the end of the day, but if you’re struggling to finish all of it or you feel a huge energy slump after your meal, it’s probably a sign that you’re having more food than  your body needs.  A simple switch of dinnerware size could be incredibly useful solution to the large firehouse serving size.

Research suggests that people eat up to 22% fewer calories when they’re able to decrease the amount of empty space on their plate (click here to read more). Basically, when you see a large plate with empty void around the food, the brain unconsciously assumes the plate contains less food than a smaller-sized dish with no white space (see below), when in fact, both plates contain the same amount.

If your in the firehouse with the plate on the left, I can almost guarantee you are gonna load it up.  Larger plates can make a serving of food appear smaller; and smaller plates can lead us to misjudge that the very same quantity of food as being much larger. This leads you to eating more from the large plate. And since the eyes (not the stomach) count the calories, the brain will still think that the body is eating less – and the more likely it will send signals for you to embark on getting hold of a second serving, thanks to the survival instinct.

So the key is to serve your firehouse meals on smaller plates.  Instead of using a big 20-inch plate for your meals, opt for a 8-inch plate.  If you’re using different plates for different foods, you can switch things around to your advantage. Use bowls for salads and vegetables and smaller plates for the meat and carbohydrates.  AND, don’t go back for seconds!

Hope this “trick” helps.

Stay safe and healthy,

Aaron Zamzow



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