Food and beverage portions have be- come two, three, four, even five times larger in recent years. What’s the big deal? Getting more food, especially when it’s low in cost, may seem appealing, but bigger does not mean better. More is not always best. While it may cost the food and restaurant industry only a few extra pennies to scale-up portions, kids pay a hefty price in terms of pounds. Super-size portions are no nutritional bargain. Large portions result in calorie-creep and may lead to an unhealthy weight.
Let’s take a look at two primary reasons why portion size matters:
- I can’t believe I ate the whole thing! A sandwich, a can of soda, a candy bar, a double cheeseburger, a personal pan pizza -- it’s human nature to eat or drink in single-serve units. No matter how big or how small, most people eat the whole thing. If a small package of potato chips contains three servings, do you think kids will stop after eating just one? In reality, it’s much easier (and tempting) to eat the entire package rather than save two servings for later. The result? Instead of eating 150 calories worth of potato chips (one serving), kids eat the entire 450-calorie bag -- 300 calories more than they anticipated!
- The more the merrier. For anyone age five and older, the larger the portion of food plunked down on the plate or poured into a bucketsize cup, the more they eat and drink. How much more? According to studies conducted at Pennsylvania State University, many people eat 30 to 50 percent more when the portions in front of them expand.
What’s even more shocking, even if we consume more, we don’t necessarily feel stuffed. As a result, we don’t cut back at other meals and end up going over our daily calorie quota. For example, even if a teenage boy ate an extra-large portion of spaghetti at lunch, chances are he would still eat his usual amount of food at dinner that night. By not compensating for the calorie overload at lunch -- either by eating less or exercising more -- over time such extra calories can lead to an unhealthy weight. Keep in mind that kids younger than age five do seem to be able to compensate and balance their calories, but, for some reason, most of us lose this ability around age five.
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