Whether they're called "value meals" or "mega meals," whether they're "supersize" or "king-size," fast-food portions are notoriously high in fat and calories. Now, in a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers confirm that fast-food portion sizes have
increased in recent years and indicate that they may be a major cause of obesity in the United States.
Researchers from the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University examined common foods currently available in grocery stores, fast-food chains and restaurants and compared them to popular foods available in the 1970s and 1980s. They also compared the foods and their portion sizes to the dietary standards that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
endorses in the Food Guide Pyramid.
Almost all of the foods (except for white bread) available in restaurants and stores came in portion sizes much larger than those recommended by the USDA. Portion sizes have also increased over time - in the 1950s, McDonald's served one size of French fries. Now the original size of fries is considered small, and large and supersize fries are about three times as large as the
small. The researchers also found that portion sizes of cookies, pasta, crackers, bagels and soda also increased.
The bottom line? Portion sizes, as well as calorie intake, have increased along with the rates of obesity and overweight people in the United States. Cutting back to reasonable portions is one way to cut back on calories, and ultimately, one strategy for losing excess weight.
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Sources: Young L, Nestle M. The Contribution of Expanding Portion Sizes to the U.S. Obesity Epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, Volume 92, Number 2, February 2002, pp. 246-249.