Portion Problems

Between the mid 1970’s and late 1990’s, Americans increased their consumption of salty snacks like chips, pretzels and popcorn by an average of 80 calories a sitting. Dessert intake at home went up by an average of 22 calories a sitting, while calories from home-eaten hamburgers and cheeseburgers rose by roughly 150 to 200. Why the shift? It appears people are learning what a portion size is from fast food chains and other places, where it is well known that meals have been getting larger and larger over the decades.

Restaurant and takeout portion sizes have been growing because food has become one of the least expensive aspects of running a food service establishment. Once you’ve got your overhead in place in terms of rent and salaries and such, serving more food to entice people with value for their money is a cheap way to expand business.

But the “translations” from portions served outside to portions served at home only add to Americans’ expanding waistlines. It can be very insidious. For example, it takes only about a half ounce of a salty snack to get the 80 extra calories that people are now consuming. That is hard to eyeball without being very familiar with how different an ounce looks from an ounce and a half. Still, 80 calories a day adds up to eight extra pounds over the course of a year.

To make matters worse, current guidelines for cooking in the home actually instruct people to eat more than they used to; it is not just a matter of what they learn by osmosis outside. Certain standard, decades-old recipes still yield the exact same amount of a dish they did years ago – but now serve fewer people with larger portions. For instance, the batter for Nestle’s Toll House cookies currently makes about 60 cookies, as opposed to 100 smaller ones as it was written back in 1949.

The solution to this problem is in your hands – there is something you can do about this at-home super sizing. Use a set of measuring cups and spoons for a few days, and invest in a $10 food scale. You might be amazed to find that the serving of pasta you put on your plate is not 1-cup at 210 calories, but 2-cups at 420 calories. Or that 2-tablespoons of salad dressing, which can contain up to 140 calories if it’s creamy, pours out faster than you realize. Another thing that may surprise you, is what you’ll see if you place a chicken breast r piece of steak on a food scale. The 3 ounces deemed a portion by the Department of Agriculture might surprise you. It is easy to assume your portion of meat is the size of a deck of cards; a food scale might very well show you that you’re playing with considerably more than a full deck.

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Source: Tufts University

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