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Growing Portion Sizes in America

From It’s Not A Diet, It’s Creative Eating !

Americans are getting fatter (are we tired of hearing this yet?), no doubt about it. Why? Well, one of the biggest reasons is the “Growing Portion Size”, of food that is. In fact, some studies suggest that the growing portion size along with another American great, the “fast food chain” is even more responsible for the growing portions (with high fat content) that have lead to our increasing waistlines. And if we take a look at the way Europeans eat, with lots of butter (the French?) and pasta (the Italians?), this may make some sense. Because it appears we Americans are growing along with our portions at a faster rate than others around the globe. Since part of the overeating equation is portion size, let’s take a closer look at some of the fastest growing portions around.

Do any of these terms ring a bell: Super-size, Double Gulp, Hefty Helpings, Movie Combo and Godzilla-sized burgers? A study reported in The Journal of The American Dietetic Association found that these marketing terms for prepared foods reflect the “bigger is better” philosophy. And aren’t we in trouble when we eat nearly half of our meals out whether outside our home or as so common here in NYC as take-out? In fact, when my favorite yogurt downsized to a 6 oz. portion from a full 8 oz. I became quite upset! I would have preferred even paying more to eat more than reduce my portion. I’m happy to report that I’ve since adjusted.

So, just how much have our portions grown? Well, the study compared portion sizes for ready-to-eat prepared most popular foods, which contribute to the bulk (pun intended) of our caloric intake. These included bread products, cakes, alcoholic beverages, hamburgers, pizza, fries, soda, pasta and (let’s now include those fancy coffee drinks) a few other foods. These portions were then compared to the food pyramid portion serving sizes. Here are several of their findings as compared to our desirable pyramid portion sizes:

  • Bagels: 2x bigger
  • ƒƒCookies: sometimes as much as 8x bigger
  • Muffins: 4x bigger
  • Steak: slightly more than 3x bigger
  • Soda: 2x bigger
  • Cooked Pasta: get ready now, almost 6x bigger

So, what should we do? We can start by being aware that we’re growing because our portions are just too big. Big portions usually mean big calories (unless we’re eating my creative salads?). We can adjust for larger portions of one food, or one meal at our next. But of course, first we need to be aware that our portions equal a lot more calories than we realize. We can also choose appetizer portions of pasta in restaurants; we can scoop out our bagels; we can pick up those tiny mini muffins instead of the regular, which are really jumbo size, and we can add fruit and yogurt to our breakfast menu (why should we eat less volume?). We can against our desire, choose the small popcorn size in the movies (I did this even though it looked so small, I would consider it a 2 year- olds’ portion) and then there’s my lifetime tool of “Cut it in Half”.

Have big portions become a way of life with our eyes and stomachs adjusting to super sizes even with our home cooked meals? This might be a good time to check out the food pyramid and get those dusty food scales out to “measure up”, since portions take on a life of their own! For those of us who want to maintain our weight as we age, and for those of us who want to lose, weighing and measuring along with sharing a steak, might keep our waistline from growing as big as those growing portion sizes!

Here’s to a smaller portion size (and waistline)!

Go to the Food Pyramid on my site at:

Check out this site to calculate approximately, how many calories you can burn for lots of activities

About The Author

June M. Lay M.S. – Health Coach

Nutritionist & Weight Loss Specialist

Women’s Exercise Specialist

Master’s Degree in Women’s Health, Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine

B.S. Behavioral Science, Behavioral/Cognitive Counselor and Health Coach, NSHC

A.C.S.M. Certified Health & Fitness Specialist

American Dietetic Association, Nutritionist A.A.S. & Certified Adult Weight Management Specialist

Medical Exercise Specialist The American Academy of Health and Fitness Rehabilitative Professionals

Lifestyle Columnist,,

Health Writer and Published Author of It’s NOT a Diet, it’s Creative Eating”!

For more information on June, visit