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

The portions of some of our favorite foods are getting bigger and bigger.

According to a December 2021 study in the American Journal of Public, ultra-processed foods and drinks, including chocolate, french fries, fast food burgers, and soft drinks, are sold in sizes up to five times larger than when they were launched for the first time on the market. Health. Ultra-processed foods are industrial preparations that usually contain five or more ingredients, and may contain, for example, hydrogenated oils, dyes or flavor enhancers – elements not found in other processed foods, according to the Nova food classification system. from the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, Faculty of Public Health, University of São Paulo.

Hershey chocolate bars range in size from 14 to 198 grams. (The 198-gram bar, labeled 8 servings, has about 1000 calories.)

McDonald’s original hamburger – from 1955 – weighed 45 grams. While the size of the original burger hasn’t changed, today the fast food chain offers two 110-gram burgers at the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, for a total of 220 grams of beef in a single order. And the fast food company launched the Double Big Mac in 2020 with four burgers and more than 700 calories.

If that calorie count makes you think, consider Burger King’s Triple Cheese Whopper, which has nearly 1300 calories. “For some people, that’s enough calories for an entire day,” said nutritionist and lead author of the study, Lisa Young.

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

A variety of beverage formats offer consumers more choice, some soft drink companies say

“It’s no surprise that many of us are overweight because it’s so easy to be overweight,” 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 this ridiculous size.”

Consuming very large servings on a regular basis in excess of our individual calorie needs can lead to obesity and related health consequences, including heart disease and type II diabetes, as well as other conditions such as sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and diabetes. About 74% of the US population is overweight or obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food and beverage ingredients are cheap compared to other expenses like rent, employees, equipment, manufacturing, and marketing, so it doesn’t cost much for manufacturers to offer a larger portion of the food, Young explained.

“Consumers are happy because even if they pay a little more for a larger portion, they get a lot more food. So it seems like everyone wins, but large portions aren’t good for the waistline, “Young said.

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

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

“By offering more beverages in different sizes, we are giving our consumers more options to choose beverages that suit their lifestyles and needs,” said Ann Moore, spokesperson for The Coca-Cola Company.

Burger King and McDonald’s claim to offer a variety of servings in their product portfolios and include nutrition information for menu items.

“When we tell our customers ‘Do it your way’, we mean it, and the nutrition information for each item on the menu is instantly accessible and easy to understand. Our online nutrition tool allows customers to search, filter and identify menu options quickly and easily, ”a Burger King spokesperson said in an email.

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

portion distortion

When we receive larger portions or buy food in larger sizes, we can assume that the amount we get is 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 thinking puts us at risk of ignoring our internal cues of satisfaction, which intuitively help us determine when we have had enough. In fact, when people are given larger portions, they consume more food and more drinks than when they are offered smaller portions, the research found. Psychologists refer to this overeating behavior as the “portion effect”.

“If we eat 100 calories of our favorite chocolate every day, nothing will happen,” Young said. “It is when we eat huge portions of meals, snacks and drinks that we can easily gain weight. This is why we have an obesity crisis in our country. We don’t need to look beyond these portions of unhealthy foods ”.

And the larger the serving size, the more calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar we end up consuming.

Main portion control

Here are some tips to help you cut down on portions and improve your health:

Limit your servings on ultra-processed foods, which are some of the more common culprits when it comes to large servings, according to Young’s study.

Here are other ways to combat portion distortion, according to Young:

Chocolate: Whenever possible, buy the smaller size. “We can be as large as 15 grams, like Halloween, all year round,” Young said. If we buy one size up, give yourself only one or two squares a day.

Treat yourself to a square or two of chocolate a day if you happen to buy too large a portion.

french fries: Order the smallest portion on the menu or share a portion and order a vegetable as an additional side dish.

Order the smaller fries or share a serving with someone, nutrition experts suggest

Alcohol-free drinks: When you leave the house, order the smallest size available. If you are at home, pour the drink into a 25 centiliter glass. Or, if you have a 60-centiliter glass, fill it halfway with ice.

Cereals: Avoid eating straight from the box. Measure the cereal with a one-cup measuring spoon, 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 the serving of cereal to help you visualize the correct portion.

Hamburger: “Make this your meat all day and eat only vegetables for dinner, like a bowl of quinoa, a salad or a bowl of greens,” Young advised.

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

Chips: Single-dose packs are best for quantity control. You can also use a measuring cup to divide larger packs, but be sure to put the pack away when you’re done.

A single packet of chips can help you not gorge yourself on the treat.

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

Eat only half a bagel sandwich with avocado, salmon, ham and mozzarella and keep what’s left in the fridge for the next day.

visual cues

Fill your plate with foods that are higher in fiber, especially fruits and vegetables. They increase the sense of satiety and offer beneficial nutrients.

Order half portions at the restaurant, especially for pasta dishes.

Don’t assume that a single bottle or bag is the amount you should consume. “A drink must have 23 centiliters. If you drink a full-sized soda, you’re drinking nearly a liter, four sodas, ”Young said.

Still not quite understanding the problem of portion sizes? Consider these equivalent dimensions as a visual guide:

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

hockey puck: 1/2 cup of vegetables, hummus, cooked oatmeal or cereal, or tomato sauce

Deck of cards: 85 grams of salmon, chicken or beef

4 dice: 30 grams of cheese

Cap of a half-liter water bottle: 1 teaspoon of oil, sauce, sugar or honey

golf ball: 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds

shot glass: 2 tablespoons of oil or salad dressing

floss box: 28 grams of chocolate or a biscuit

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