“Clean your plate or there won’t be any dessert for you!” Twenty or 30 years ago, you may have been able to clean your plate and still have room for dessert, but due to ever-expanding plate and portion sizes, if you clean your plate these days, you’re likely packing on some pounds in the process. That’s because portion sizes are out of control, and they seem to be getting worse.
A new study from England indicates portion sizes there have doubled in the past twenty years. According to the Daily Mail, compared with portions in 1993, today we are eating twice as much.
The study, from the British Heart Foundation, looked at 245 food products within popular grocery stores in the U.K. They found, for example, a chicken curry frozen meal was 53% larger than it was in 1993. Crumpets were 20 to 30% bigger.
The study also indicates consumers are confused about labels, portion sizes, and just how much they should be eating.
“As for a 200g bar of milk chocolate, it should give eight portions according to the on-pack information. But only 10 per cent of people actually knew that. Nearly three-quarters thought it would feed four adults or fewer, with a third of people thinking it would be the right amount for one or two people.”
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This problem isn’t unique to Britain, however, as we see it in the US as well. Here, the National Institutes of Health estimate that most food portions have doubled and some have even tripled over the past 20 years. This goes hand in hand with other reports indicating that portion sizes in restaurants have quadrupled since the 1950s.
Only 20 years ago, a bagel was three inches in diameter. Today, they’re six. A medium bag of popcorn has grown from 5 cups to 11 cups. And the average soda at a drive-thru has gone from 6.5 ounces to 20 ounces.
“Super-sized portions at restaurants have distorted what Americans consider a normal portion size, and that affects how much we eat at home as well,” said Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, of NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “One way to keep calories in check is to keep food portions no larger than the size of your fist.”
Obesity is a problem around the world and portion sizes are just one place we can start making progress. For many, portions the size of your fist seem drastically small, but when you consider the size of your stomach, anything larger is too much.