health Insurance Article

Serving Sizes Around the World

wwwThe Japanese use the colloquial term “American size” to refer to how everything in the U.S. is bigger, including the people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1/3 of Americans are obese because of sedentary lifestyles, high-calorie diets, and large “American size” portions with every meal. So was it always this way? Have the portion sizes for meals in restaurants and fast-food joints really increased so dramatically over the years?

Keep in mind that “serving size” and “portion” are two different things. A serving size is the amount of food recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture. A portion is just whatever amount a food establishment decides to serve and you decide to eat.

What Does This Tell Us? Then vs. Now

Let’s start with coffee. Your typical cup of Starbucks gives you 16 ounces of coffee, 2% reduced fat milk, and a generous squirt of mocha syrup, the end result amounting to 350 calories that your body has to deal with. Amazingly, just over 20 years ago, during that primitive time historians refer to as “the early ’90s,” a cup of coffee to go was just 8 ounces in size, came with sugar and milk (none of that wimpy skim stuff), and totaled a mere 45 calories. Think for a second: how much coffee do you consume in a week or a single day?

We see the most dramatic increase in portion sizes and corresponding calorie amounts in fast food, including movie popcorn, which has increased over the same 20-year period from equaling five cups and 270 calories to a whopping 11 cups and 630 calories. Fast food portion sizes, including cheeseburgers and fries, are two to five times larger than when they were first introduced.

Obesity Around the World

Obesity is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. After the U.S., countries with the highest percentages of obese citizens include Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Japan, which has always traditionally served small portions so as not to waste food, has the fewest obese citizens.

Food portions served in restaurants and fast food establishments in Philadelphia are, perhaps not surprisingly, much larger than the portions served in Paris establishments. A hot dog is 63% larger in Philly than in Paris, while a portion of the euphemistically named “Chinese Food” is 72% larger. Which begs the question, do French people even Chinese food?

Even more chilling than this data is the fact that several studies show people gain weight (not necessarily for the better) after moving to the U.S.

How to Cut Back

If you are experiencing problems with your weight, and can attribute it to simply eating larger portions of food than necessary, consider trying the following steps to regain your good health:

  • Eat meals at home, where you can control the size of the portions you eat.
  • When eating out, pack up a portion of your meal before you begin to eat and save it for another meal at home.
  • When eating out, consider ordering from the children’s menu to receive smaller portions of food.