This graphic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows says it all about portion sizes. It’s no big surprise that while health problems and obesity rates have risen so have portion sizes. In fact, restaurant portion sizes have quadrupled since the 1950â€²s.
The graphic shows that hamburgers used to be a 3.9 oz portion size and now are 12 oz. A portion size of french fries was 2.4 oz and has increased to 6.7 oz. And finally, a portion size of soda used to be 7 oz and is now 42 oz (I have to admit, that one seems a bit extreme to me). That means a hamburger and french fry meal is now three times the portion size it once was and a fountain soda drink is an amazing six times bigger!
Portion Size and Weight Increase
Now that we know portion sizes have increased, let’s take a look at the average weight increase. The average man weights 28 pounds more than he did he the 1960s. The average woman weight 24.5 pounds more. If portion sizes are 4.56 times larger, is it really any surpise that people have increased in size too? Right along with obesity rates increasing almost every other illness and disease is also at an all time high. Currently is is estimated that 50% of the population will be obese by 2030. Wonder if portion sizes will continue to increase to keep up?
Portion Size – The Real Cost
Eating these increased portion sizes is costing a lot. The cost includes not only health problems but work productivity is effected as well. Obese individuals take more sick days and are less productive than healthy weight individuals. Employers pay the price for these losses. We all pay the increased cost for health care. Businesses such as hospitals, buses, and airplanes are having to pay to make adjustments to accommodate the larger portion sized American (and you know they pass along these expenses). The cost of obesity is thought to be nearly $73.1 billion annually. So that portion size that is a mounded plate is really not so cheap.
Portion Sizing – Is That The Only Culprit?
Americans are eating too many calories, but it’s not that simple. Certainly, eating portion sizes three to four times larger will cause you to gain weight, but I think our health and obesity problems are even more complicated by the increased use of harmful and toxic ingredients. There weren’t a whole lot of additives in food back in the 1950s. Now there are harmful ingredients in the majority of food, both from restaurants and grocery stores. And this is beyond portion sizes. I looked up a Burger King chicken breast patty. You would think it is just chicken, right? Maybe a little salt or pepper too? Amazingly, it’s a paragraph long and includes MSG, partially hydrogenated soybean oil (that’s a transfat!), hydrolyzed wheat gluten, sodium phosphates, corn syrup solids, thiamine hydrochloride,caramel color, and (my favorite) disodium inosinate disodium guanylate vegetable stock. [There’s four words before vegetable stock – my grandmother would be appalled]. So not only is the portion size bigger, it’s full of unnatural stuff.
I don’t want to just pick on restaurants though. Even something as simple as “strawberry flavor” consists of nearly 50 different chemicals. These types of toxic and harmful ingredients can now be found throughout the mainstream food supply.
So What To Do Now?
Our health is more complicated than portion sizes but that’s a good place to start. To better understand proper portion sizing, watch this video:
Really understand what a portion size should look like. Eat appropriate portion sizes. Read your labels. Remove products that you don’t know the ingredients or look like a mad scientist could have created them. Buy nutrient dense whole foods. These steps will help you reverse these awful trends.
Portion Size Sources:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/portion_size_research.pdf
Duke Today: http://today.duke.edu/2010/10/workobese.html