More Americans Want Smaller Food Portions Since Pandemic, According to New Research from Georgetown University

Study finds 58% are eating smaller portions.
Consumers have made many changes to their lifestyles since the pandemic began, especially when it comes to the amounts they are eating. The goal of the 2022 Portion Balance Attitude and Action Tracking study was to learn whether consumers have made portion-specific behavior changes post-COVID compared to pre-COVID days. The findings are clear: Americans want smaller food portions.

Georgetown University's Portion Balance Coalition, part of Business for Impact at the McDonough School of Business worked with the Natural Marketing Institute to develop and conduct the study and builds on the pre-COVID study done in 2019 as a baseline to compare the data. This tracking study is intended to be replicated every two to three years.

“The food industry should continue to use portion control sizing as it gives consumers enjoyment without the guilt,” says Hank Cardello, Chair of Georgetown University's Portion Balance Coalition. “We want consumers to feel empowered to create demand and acceptance for healthier food portions while motivating the industry to respond to this demand.”

The following are the key findings from the 2022 study on how consumers are altering the amount they eat to better control their health and well-being:
  • Overall, 58% of consumers are eating smaller portions
  • 50% are choosing more portion-controlled snacks such as 100-calorie packages
  • 63% like when restaurants include calorie amounts on the menu
These findings compare data from the 2019 study to 2022:
  • 45% are buying smaller packages of food items to help manage how much to eat, up from 38% in 2019
  • 44% are buying smaller sizes of beverage items to better control the amount they are drinking, up from 40% in 2019
  • 62% want restaurants to offer standard portion sizes, compared to 58% in 2019
“The Portion Balance Coalition is working toward a food environment where everyone is able to easily choose and enjoy balanced food portions for better health,” said Hope Freedman, Program Director of the Portion Balance Coalition. “The research shows that many consumers are now utilizing portion management tools to determine healthy portion sizes.”

These tools include calorie counters, apps, measuring cups, USDA's MyPlate visual, and checking food labels more closely. In addition, consumers also are using their hands to better approximate portion size. The Portion Balance Coalition created a portion management resource as part of its “Eat for You” consumer educational campaign. The campaign tools provide an individualized approach to nutrition that focuses on portion balance and employs a person's own hand as a guide since portion sizes are different for each food group.

For more information about the study and methodology, visit: Portion Balance Coalition Research. The 2022 Portion Balance Attitude and Action Tracking study is available on the left side of the page.