Bonnie Modugno, MS, RDHealth Blog - Nutrition

Is Access Just As Significant As Portions?

Published on 2011-08-17 by Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD

We begin our second week of vacation in France. For five days we sampled the glories of Paris. From climbing the Eiffel tower to traipsing through the catacombs, we traversed the city on foot, on bike, by tram, train and taxi. We rented a car to take us to Bayeau and the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.

Through all of our navigation, I noticed how food seemed a necessary and often delightful backdrop. But it wasn’t front and center. This is different than at home.

Visualization is courtesy of

In France food is very present, but access is limited. Shops open later, close earlier. Brasseries are ubiquitous, on every corner. But the invitation is to sit down, not grab and go. I wonder how much taking time to eat decreases impulsive food consumption.
Fast food exists, but the Quick Burger, McDonald’s, and Starbucks are a rare exception, not one of dozens of choices available on both sides of the street like at home. People eat there, but they seem to sit down and eat there. Take away doesn’t seem to be the norm. You don’t see people walking around with the ubiquitous grande caramel machiato I see at home.
Food is expensive. We ate out only two meals of 15. I purposely rented an apartment with a kitchen so we could cook our own meals and not break the bank.
We stay away from the pricey starred restaurants and chose a local Lebanese brasserie for one meal. Still, the check totaled over 80 Euros–that is close to $120 in American dollars. We enjoyed a second meal out en route from Normandy in Caen. Insalata di Tonno Crudo and Pizza–Delicious and another 45 Euros.
Our refrigerator is the size of one we use in my office–maybe 15% of what I can store in my refrigerator at home. The freezer probably holds only 5%–mostly ice.
Storage is limited in our tiny flat. There really isn’t an empty shelf. We rearrange the coffee maker and toaster to make room for a few basic staples. We shop daily for our food. We eat well, but there is just not as much food around. Interesting how we find ourselves eating less. (Note: we are also moving through our entire day–certainly ongoing physical activity has an impact as well.)
I wonder how much my 42” built in refrigerator contributes to over eating. What about my cherished walk in food pantry? How about the second refrigerator/freezer and food storage closet in the garage? My husband is in the food distribution business–we buy in bulk because we can. It is very cost effective. But if there is constant abundance, is there also constant temptation to overeat?
Today I purchase more food at our local farmer’s markets, often two and three times a week. Inherently I bring less food home each time. But I am still buying for days at a time. Frank comes home with food in bulk. Do these food purchasing habits create an environment of abundance that is difficult to resist?
What about people who purchase mostly highly processed and adulterated food? Supermarkets and big box stores alike offer large family packs supposedly at lower prices. America has swallowed the bait.
USDA data tells us shopping a food warehouses accounts for 18% of food purchases today. It was negligible in the 1970’s before child obesity tripled.
When there is more of everything at our disposal all day long all the time, are we seduced to eat more?
Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD
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