Why is Everything So Small? The Rising Popularity of the Small Plate Meal

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Appetizers; Image from MorgueFileIt seems like no matter what restaurant you may stop into for a bite, you can’t miss items like tiny lamb kabobs, small shrimp skewers and a generally miniature version of just about anything. It seems choices like sliders are no longer just a novelty saved for the likes of White Castle, but have become commonplace everywhere from high end eateries to your local Houlihan’s.  According to a recent list put out by The Nation’s Restaurant News, small plates will be even bigger in 2011, placing at number 13 on their top 20 list of food trends in the coming year.

So why do we have this sudden obsession with the little things in our food life?  One of the answers could lie in our internet habits.  A study of internet use in Korean teenagers may have proved that the web isn’t the gateway to obesity as many believe.  They studied teens with light, moderate and heavy internet “addiction” and found that those falling under the heavy addiction actually tended to eat smaller meals on average.  One answer as to why this happened comes from a Salon.com article by Sara Breselor.  Breselor advises to “Considerate it (smaller portions/plates) the dining equivalent of updating your Facebook status…”   If you look at it this way, it’s only logical that with the growing popularity of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook that seeing smaller portions has also increased.

A second thought on the attractiveness of this new petite movement may be due to the economy.  After all, isn’t it common to downsize when in a financial downturn?  The average chain restaurant, like the Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, have recently turned to this thrifty option as a way to cut costs, but not sacrifice taste and options.  Using undersized portions allows for customers, as well as the kitchen, to test out new combinations without breaking anyone’s bank.  This alternative also tends to help add more items to the check and has increased wine-by-the-glass purchases, according to an article from Nestle Professional.

A final, and seemingly obvious, reason for the trend is it’s “health” benefits.  Like most fads in the cuisine arena, small plates have been thought to be able to lend a hand in weight loss.  In terms of portion, according to a study done by Calgary University in Canada, how much a person eats is directly related to the kind of plate they use.  This means, the smaller the plate, the smaller the portion, the smaller the portion, the less you eat, the less you eat, the less weight you gain.  However, not only does the portion size make small plates an appealing choice but the common options add to the “diet” appeal.  Most of these snack-sized alternatives are guided by the traditional Spanish tapas which focus on proteins and vegetables.  As anyone who’s followed a low-carb diet knows, these items are a diet’s best friend because they tend to provide nutrients and flavor without the starchy, fatty side effects.

If you’re looking for great places to try this new trend:
In Indianapolis, check out:  Mesh, Zing, Iozzo’s Garden of Italy and
Zest! Exciting Food Creations

Nationwide, check out:  Barcelona Tapas, Cheesecake Factory,
Houlihan’s and California Pizza Kitchen

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