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Portion sizes have risen: A Few Tips to Help Your Family Thrive

May 16th 2023

Over the past two decades, portion sizes have undergone a significant transformation, and this shift has been closely linked to the rising rates of obesity. The evolution of portion sizes reflects changing societal norms, consumer preferences, and the practices of the food industry. Comparing portion sizes from 20 years ago to those of today reveals a stark contrast that has contributed to the obesity epidemic.

Twenty years ago, portion sizes were generally smaller and more modest compared to their modern counterparts. Fast food meals, for example, typically came in smaller servings, and standard menu items were less supersized. A regular-sized soda at a fast food restaurant was often 8 ounces, while today's default size is typically 20 ounces or more. Similarly, a typical hamburger was smaller, and side orders such as fries were less substantial. Even at sit-down restaurants, portion sizes were generally more moderate, and leftovers were common.

However, in recent years, portion sizes have dramatically expanded. The food industry has adopted a "bigger is better" approach to attract customers and maximize profits. Fast food chains introduced larger serving options, such as super-sized meals and value deals that offer more food for a fraction of the cost. The trend has also influenced other sectors of the food industry, including packaged snacks, beverages, and even home-cooked meals. Many products now come in larger packages, encouraging people to consume more in a single sitting.

This increase in portion sizes has had a detrimental impact on public health, contributing to the obesity epidemic. Larger portions can lead to overeating and excessive calorie intake. Studies have shown that individuals tend to consume more when presented with larger portions, often ignoring their body's signals of fullness. The "clean plate club" mentality, where people feel compelled to finish everything on their plate, further exacerbates this issue.

Moreover, the prevalence of larger portion sizes has altered people's perception of what constitutes a normal serving. As larger portions become the new norm, individuals may unintentionally consume more food without realizing it. This distorted perception of portion sizes can lead to an overestimation of appropriate serving sizes and contribute to weight gain over time.

The impact of increased portion sizes on obesity rates cannot be underestimated. Obesity is a complex condition influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. However, the availability and consumption of larger portion sizes play a significant role in the overconsumption of calories and subsequent weight gain.

To address the issue of portion sizes and combat obesity, there is a need for concerted efforts from various stakeholders. Public health campaigns and educational initiatives can help raise awareness about appropriate portion sizes and promote mindful eating. The food industry can also play a crucial role by offering more reasonable portion options and implementing clear labeling that informs consumers about the nutritional content of their products.

In conclusion, portion sizes have significantly increased over the past two decades, contributing to the obesity epidemic. The shift toward larger servings has led to a culture of overeating and distorted perceptions of appropriate portion sizes. Recognizing the impact of portion sizes and taking steps to promote healthier serving options is crucial in addressing the obesity crisis and improving public health.

Here are a few tips to help every family survive and thrive when it comes to portion sizes:

  • When eating out, ask for a to-go box and take half of your meal home.
  • Try to order protein, such as meat or fish, or plant-based food such as tofu, over carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes.
  • When eating out, ask to hold the starch (pasta, potatoes, rice) and double up on the veggies.
  • When serving food at home, use smaller plates for the main course, and larger ones for the salad.
  • When eating at home, try to buy fresh, local produce in season. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
  • When plating your food, make half of the plate veggies and salad. The other half should be split into 2/3 protein, and 1/3 carbs. The starchy carb items should be the smallest part of your plate.
  • Have your family get up and serve themselves. Do not leave the food on the table, or everyone will eat more.
  • When lured by more food for less money, look to see if they are just adding more starch (pasta, French fries or rice). If this is the case, don’t bite!
  • Limit eating out to no more than once per week, and try to cook more healthy meals at home.
  • When eating, just eat! Refrain from watching TV, using electronics or reading a magazine or book.

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