America’s portion sizes:In today’s New York Times reporter Jane E. Brody takes a look at the United States’ obesity woes. Focusing her attention on
I'll start with what seems to be a mantra for most Americans: bigger is better. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger portions. About 30 years ago the restaurant industry tried to introduce Americans to a French dining style called cuisine minceur, small, elegant portions served on large, usually white plates (but priced as if the plates were heaped with food).To make matters worse research indicates portion size acts independently with another characteristic of meals, energy density:
It was doomed from the get-go. Americans want more for their money, and more is what they got. Portions big enough to feed a horse.
It's not just McDonald's. Nearly every dish and beverage Americans now consume is supersized compared with what they used to eat (and, I might add, at a time when more energy was spent just getting through the demands of the day).
An average serving of pasta is now 480 percent greater than the one-cup recommended serving size, Lisa Young and Marion Nestle, nutritionists at New York University, reported in 2002 in The American Journal of Public Health. Some cookies, they found, are 700 percent larger.
A New York bagel, now sold nationwide, weighs five or six ounces. That is five or six bread portions, supplying about 500 calories, not counting cream cheese or butter. The muffin tins from my childhood produce muffins one-third the size of those at Starbucks.
Restaurants like fast-food and takeout establishments, as well as family-style businesses, pile on food with no regard for recommended portions.
The more energy-dense a food is — that is, the more calories per ounce or gram — the more calories people tend to consume.
In previous studies, Dr. Rolls found that, all other factors being equal, people eat about the same weight of food each day.
If those foods are in the moderate range of energy density like meat, cheese, pizza and French fries or at the high end of energy density like crackers, nuts and cookies, people consume more calories than they do if their meals contain lots of low-energy-density foods, like soup, green salad, nonstarchy vegetables and fruit.