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Larger Than Life Portion Sizes Helps to Fuel America's Obesity Epidemic

Excess portion sizes have been linked to America's obesity crisis. Although many people may not be aware of it, there is a subtle difference between 'portion size' and 'serving size' in relation to food. These terms can be confusing, but they are not synonymous.

A portion is whatever you choose to make it. It can be thought of as any amount of a specific food you choose to eat at a sitting. For example a portion of raw almonds can be a handful, or a certain number.

A serving is not quite so arbitrary. It is a specific unit of measure recommended by the manufacturer for a food product. Serving sizes are listed on the 'Nutrition Facts' label of packaged foods. A usual serving size of bread would be 1 slice. For rice it may be 1/2 cup.

The serving size for the 1 pint container of Breyer's All-Natural Ice Cream is 1/2 cup. That particular container has 4 servings. If I choose to eat the entire container in one sitting, it would be considered a portion. That portion consists of 4 servings.

Serving sizes have increased tremendously in the past 50 years. This has triggered an almost parallel increase in portion sizes. The average size of a cooked hambuger in 1957 was 1 ounce. That increased to 6 ounces in 1997. In 1957, 1 large soda was 8 fluid ounces; in 1997, the consumer could buy up to 64 ounces. Theater popcorn in 1957 was 3 cups; in 1997, that increased to 16 cups.

McDonald's fast food chains had one size french fries in the mid-1950s. Today that size is a 'small' and is part of a kiddie meal. See how portion sizes have changed in the last 50 years:

french fries- 1950s: 2.4 oz.| 2003: up to 7.1 oz.
fountain soda- 1950s: 7 oz. | 2003: 12 to 64 oz.
hambuger patty- 1950s: 1.6 oz. | 2003: up to 8 oz.
hambuger, sandwich- 1950s: 3.9 oz. | 2003: 4.4 to 12.6 oz.
muffin- 1950s: 3 oz. | 2003: 6.5 oz.
pasta serving- 1950s: 1.5 cups | 2003: 3 cups
chocolate bar- 1950s: 1 oz. | 2003: 2.6 to 8 oz.

See graphic illustration provided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) here

Out of control portion sizes is helping to fuel the world's obesity epidemic. What's the solution? Eat a lot more fiber - fruits and vegetables. The correct portion size for meat is the size of the palm of your hand.
Source: Portion Distortion: Serving Sizes Are Growing. Retrieved from

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