Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bang! Our Portion Explosion

We all know portion-sizes have increased—as have our waistlines—and we know that the growth of both are related. We know too that the reverse is true. By reducing portion size we reduce the amount we eat and therefore the amount of weight we gain.

So, we know all of this, but here are some interesting examples that sort of “bring it home.”

If we have one single cookbook, for many of us it might be a copy of “The Joy of Cooking,” first published in 1931 and still one of this country's most published cookbooks. Now, researchers from Cornell University have actually studied the recipes in “The Joy of Cooking.” The research looked at 18 recipes that have been published in each edition dating back to 1936. They found that over the years, 14 of the 18 recipes had an increase in calories—and the difference wasn’t small. The overall calories in the recipes increased by 35 percent.

Lisa Young, an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University has studied the relationship between bigger portion sizes and bigger waistlines.

Young points out that the identical brownie recipe in the 1997 edition of the “Joy of Cooking” yields 16 brownies, while the 1975 edition yielded 30 brownies. This means the 1997 brownie is almost twice as big, thus—more calories.

And, there’s more. Young says between 1984 and 1987, just three years, the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the Nestlé’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels package scaled down the number of cookies it makes from 100 to 60.

So, where do we put these bigger brownies and cookies? Well, on our bigger plates. The average dinner plate has increased in diameter roughly 40 percent since World War II. It stands to reason that if plates are bigger, portions grow bigger to fill them.

Are your portion sizes out of control? Do you pay attention to portion sizes for family meals? And, here’s an interesting question—what would your family say if you filled their plates with the recommended portion size (such as 2/3 cup of pasta or spaghetti—the size of a tennis ball; a 3-oz. serving of chicken, beef or fish—the size of a deck of cards; or ½ cup of mashed potatoes—the size of a computer mouse)?

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