DIETING
December 16, 2015

The Size of An Order of Fries

Our waistlines are a perfect reflection of the big increase in portion sizes over the past 50 years. Time to go retro.

We are eating more than we did 50 years ago, and it’s showing — on our hips, on our thighs, on our bellies, and our scales.

An order of French fries used to be about 2.5 ounces; today’s order is just under 7 ounces. Fifty years ago dinner plates were 9 inches in diameter. Today the average dinner plate measures 12 inches. And pies, muffins, bagels, pizzas, and chips are sold in larger packages than they were just 25 years ago.

The increased size of tableware and larger portion or packaging sizes mean that people are consuming more calories, according to a Cochrane review in The British Medical Journal. The University of Cambridge researchers suggest that we could reduce the average daily calories consumed by adults by 22 to 29 percent by doing away with larger portions.

Don’t fall victim to purchasing large packages of high calorie foods just because they are on sale or appear cheap.

The package or portion sizes we routinely see in supermarkets, restaurants, advertisements, or in our homes, become what we view as the norm. These increasingly larger portions have become our new normal — and our consumption has increased correspondingly.

The researchers propose a drastic change to tackle the obesity problem. “Reducing portion sizes across the whole diet to realize large reductions in consumption may mean reverting to sizes of portions and tableware similar to those in the 1950s,” they write. That would mean cutting portions for some foods by half.

However, figuring out how to reduce portion sizes in a way that would be acceptable to everyone from food manufacturers to consumers isn’t easy. In the meantime, the researchers offer the following interventions to begin scaling back portion sizes:

  • Reduce the size of foods and beverages that are high in calories such as the standard single serving for sweets and chips.
  • Reduce the availability of larger sizes, for example, by removing the largest drink sizes.
  • In stores and cafes place larger portion sizes in less accessible areas.
  • Restrict pricing practices that promote the purchase of larger portion and package sizes.
  • Depict single portion sizes on packages.
  • Restrict portion and package sizes in food and beverage advertising.
  • Make smaller tableware (plates, cups, glasses, cutlery) the default size for self-service and served meals.
  • Design tableware that encourages smaller bites, such as shallow plates and cutlery and straight-sided glasses.
  • Price tableware according to its size.
  • To reduce your portions of food on a daily basis starting now, go retro, and eat and drink from smaller plates, cups, glasses, and bowls. Pay attention to portion sizes on packages, and eat only what is labeled as one portion. Split restaurant meals with your dining partner, or eat half and take half home. Just say no when offered a larger beverage or order of fries. Don’t fall victim to purchasing large packages of high calorie foods just because they are on sale or appear cheap.

    Most importantly, eat mindfully — pay attention to how much you are eating rather than just eating what is put before you.
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