Are your food portions healthy?

Are your food portions healthy? (Jonathon Berlin and Rick Tuma)

"The secret to mindless eating is not mindful eating," Wansink says. "There are 99 ways to lose weight if you want to, but the majority of people are a little too preoccupied to ask, 'How many grams of protein do I really need?' 'Am I really full or am I just satisfied?' We're not going to re-engineer 50 years of life."

We can, he says, counteract some of the changes.

"Since 1960, the average size of dinnerware has increased 11 percent," he says. "That almost doubles the surface area. A 4-ounce serving of pasta looks like plenty on a 10-inch plate. On a 12-inch plate it doesn't even look like an appetizer's worth."

Use smaller plates and bowls, he says. Pack leftovers in smaller Tupperware. Drink from smaller cups.

Of course, there's still that pesky, ingrained desire for a deal that drives us to buy more and eat more than we truly should. For that, Glassner says, we have to remember to consider the messenger.

"We're getting messages about what to eat and how often to eat from so many sources," Glassner says. "Being more attentive to who's sending us the message and why will go a long way. If it's coming from someone trying to sell us something — whether they're selling us ice cream or a diet plan — we need to be critical and assess the quality of what they're selling."

Regardless of the perceived value.

A little less of this, a little more of that

In her 2004 "non-diet diet book," "French Women Don't Get Fat" (Vintage), Mireille Guiliano made a name (and a fortune) for herself explaining how French women can drown themselves in butter and wine and still look like, well, French women. She has since launched a blog and released a cookbook ("The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook") and recently shared with us her thoughts on portion control and food taboos.

Q: What should we be focusing on when making our food choices?

A: Less is more. Good, fresh, seasonal ingredients. More veggies and fruit, less greasy/fatty/fried stuff and no aversion to bread, potatoes and other foods that are actually good for you — in small portions. Diversity and color is also vital to our way of eating.

Q: What are some foods that have been unfairly turned into taboos?

So many, from oysters (amazingly good for you and so tasty) to champagne (also good in moderation with minerals and much more in it), real yogurt, eggs, calf's liver, bony fish, lots of raw fish, crustaceans, artichokes, offals, rabbit, butter.

Q: And is the reasoning that they are whole, unprocessed foods?

A: Yes, and in many cases tastier and healthier.

Q: Are there foods we would be well-served to cut out completely, or is it more a matter of controlling our portion sizes?

A: Both. What I see as I travel around the country is both the amount of same food that people eat — usually pizza, hamburgers, fries, pasta. I can't tell you how many young people I've met who don't eat veggies and rarely fruit except an unripe banana gulped down in five seconds. And, of course, too much sweet stuff, particularly the latest horrible cupcake crave, which wreaks havoc on one's metabolism. The idea is not to ban these foods once and for all, but if you must have them do it as an indulgence occasionally and for heaven's sake sit down and eat slowly at the table.

hstevens@tribune.com