What you need to know to manage portions, according to an expert

The portion sizes of some of our favorite foods are getting bigger and bigger.

According to a December 2021 study by the American Journal of Public, highly processed foods and drinks, including chocolate, french fries, fast food burgers and soft drinks, are selling in sizes five times larger than when they first hit the market. Health. Ultra-processed foods are industrial preparations that typically contain five or more ingredients and may contain, for example, hydrogenated oils, colorants, or flavor enhancers—elements not found in other processed foods, according to the Nova food classification system. Center for Epidemiological Research in Health and Nutrition, Faculty of Public Health, University of São Paulo.

Hershey’s chocolate bars range in size from 14 grams to 198 grams. (A 198-gram bar labeled 8 servings contains about 1,000 calories.)

The original 1955 McDonald’s hamburger weighed 45 grams. Although the original size of the hamburger has not changed, today the fast food chain offers two 110-gram hamburgers in a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, for a total of 220 grams of beef per order. And in 2020, the fast food company launched Double Big Mac with four hamburgers and over 700 calories.

If that number of calories makes you wonder, consider Burger King’s Triple Cheese Whopper, which has nearly 1,300 calories. “Some people have enough calories for a whole day,” said nutritionist and study lead author Lisa Young.

While smaller sizes still exist, the availability of larger sizes has also increased. Coca-Cola drinks are now sold in different sizes, from 22 to 70 centiliters. According to the study, the original bottle was 20 centiliters.

A variety of drink sizes gives consumers more choice, some soft drink makers say.

“It’s no wonder so many of us are overweight because it’s very easy to gain weight,” said Young, who is also an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. “It’s hard to stick to normal portions when we’re bombarded with these ridiculous sizes.”

Regular consumption of very large portions in excess of our individual caloric needs can lead to obesity and its associated health consequences, including heart disease and type II diabetes, as well as other conditions such as sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and diabetes, and gallbladder disease. bubble. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 74% of the US population is overweight or obese.

Food and drink ingredients are cheap compared to other costs such as rent, staff, equipment, production and marketing, so it doesn’t cost manufacturers much to offer most food, Yang explained.

“Consumers are happy because while they pay a little more for a larger serving, they get a lot more food. So it seems that everyone wins, but large portions are bad for the waist, ”said Yang.

Food companies emphasize that customers can choose from a wide range of options.

“Hershey’s has always offered a wide range of sizes and most acceptable options,” Jeff Beckman, spokesman for The Hershey Company, said in an email in response to the study’s findings. “Over the years, we have expanded our offerings to include small bars introduced in the 1970s and more recently our many ‘gourmet’ offerings that offer consumers the opportunity to enjoy their favorite Hershey brands in small portions.”

“By offering more drinks in different sizes, we give our consumers more options to choose drinks that suit their lifestyle and needs,” said Anne Moore, spokesperson for The Coca-Cola Company.

Burger King and McDonald’s say they offer a variety of servings in their grocery portfolios and include nutritional information for menu items.

“When we tell our customers ‘do it your way’ we mean it, and the nutritional information for every dish on the menu is immediately available and easy to understand. Our online food tool allows customers to quickly and easily search, filter and define menu options,” a Burger King spokesperson said in an email.

According to a company statement emailed to CNN, McDonald’s also offers customers a variety of servings in its portfolio. “McDonald’s USA is committed to transparency and providing information to customers so they can make the right choice.” The company displays calories on menu posters and provides ingredient and nutritional information on the company’s website, app, and restaurant kiosks.

portion distortion

When we get larger portions or buy larger foods, we may assume that the amount we get is equal to the amount we should be eating.

“We think (the amount we get) is reasonable because ‘this is what I bought’ or ‘this is what I was offered,'” Young said.

This kind of thinking puts us at risk of ignoring our internal signals of satisfaction, which intuitively help us determine when we’ve had enough. In fact, when people are given large portions, they consume more food and drink than when they are given smaller portions, a study has shown. Psychologists call this overeating behavior the “portion size effect.”

“If we eat 100 calories of our favorite chocolate every day, nothing will happen,” Yang said. “When we eat huge portions of food, snacks and drinks, we can easily put on weight. That’s why we have an obesity crisis in our country. We don’t need to look beyond these junk food portions.”

And the larger the serving, the more calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar we consume.

Main portion control

Here are some tips to help you reduce portions and improve your health:

Limit portions of ultra-processed foods, which are among the most common culprits for large portions, according to Young’s research.

Here are additional ways to combat portion skew, according to Young:

Chocolate: Buy the smallest size if possible. “We can be 15g like Halloween all year long,” Young said. If buying a size up, treat yourself to just one or two squares a day.

Treat yourself to one or two chocolate bars a day if you happen to buy too much.

French fries: Order the smallest portion on the menu, or split the portion and order a vegetable as an additional side dish.

Order the smallest size fries or share a portion with someone, nutritionists advise

Soft drinks: When leaving home, order the smallest available size. If you are at home, pour your drink into a 25cm glass. Or, if you have a 60cm glass, fill it halfway with ice.

Cereals: Avoid drinking straight out of the box. Use a measuring cup to measure the cereal into one cup, then pour the cereal into a bowl. This can help you visualize how much a cup costs.

Use a one-cup measuring cup to measure your cereal serving to visualize the correct serving.

hamburgers“Make it meat for the day and eat only vegetables for dinner, like a bowl of quinoa, a salad, or a bowl of vegetables,” Yang advised.

A plate of quinoa and chickpeas can be a healthy alternative to ultra-processed foods.

Potato chips: Single serving bags are best for quantity control. You can also use a measuring cup to separate larger bags, but be sure to remove the bag when you’re done.

Individually packaged chips can help keep you from overeating your treat.

Bagels and cupcakes: “These things are amazing; a typical bagel weighs 140 grams and a typical muffin weighs almost 200 grams,” Young said. Try cutting one in half and reheating the leftovers in the toaster the next day.

Eat only half of an avocado, salmon, ham, and mozzarella sandwich, and store the rest in the refrigerator until the next day.

visual cues

Fill your plate with fiber-rich foods, especially fruits and vegetables. They increase the feeling of satiety and contain beneficial nutrients.

Order half servings in restaurants, especially for pasta dishes.

Don’t think that one bottle or bag is the amount you should be consuming. “Soda should be 23 centimeters. If you drink a full-fledged soda, you will drink almost a liter, four servings of soda,” Young said.

Still confused about portion sizes? Consider these size equivalents as a visual guide:

baseball: a cup of fruit or vegetables, a cup of cereal, pasta or rice

Hockey puck: 1/2 cup vegetables, hummus, oatmeal or cereal, or tomato sauce

Card deck: 85 g salmon, chicken or beef

4 bones: 30 g cheese

Half liter water bottle cap: 1 teaspoon oil, sauce, sugar or honey.

golf ball: 1⁄4 cup nuts or seeds

glass: 2 tablespoons oil or salad dressing

floss box: 28 g chocolate or biscuits.

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