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Diet and Nutrition

Portion Distortion

Though you may not realize it, larger portion sizes can strongly influence your eating habits and your waistline. Studies show that when given larger portions, children as well as adults will eat more. Take a 20 oz bottle of soda. A serving size (according to the food label) is 8oz. Yet, many of us routinely polish off a full 20 ounces in the blink of an eye, not realizing that we've consumed two and a half servings. A small bag of chips used to be one serving. Then, Frito Lay TM added a few more ounces, and the small bag became a "New, BIGGER SIZE!" While we unconsciously gobble up these extra ounces, those extra ounces can add up to a few pounds a year.

Food Fact:
A Big MacTM has 576 calories - it has 32 grams of fat (60% of the fat is saturated).
To compare other fast foods, click here

Until we start learning and paying attention to true serving sizes, our country will continue to get fatter. Currently, the majority of Americans (66%) are overweight or obese. Obesity is linked with several chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, to name a few. As other countries adopt our bigger portions, they continue to gain weight and suffer similar illnesses. Test your knowledge of serving sizes. Try guessing how many standard servings there are in each of the following foods. A link below will give you the answers.

A large apple
1 large grapefruit
2 large broccoli spears
1 cup of macaroni and cheese
1 cup of rice
2 slices of bread
1 whole bagel
2 1-ounce slices of cheese
8 oz. cup of fruit yogurt
12 oz bottle of real juice
1 cup of raisin bran cereal
¼  lb. hamburger
8 oz. glass of milk
1 slice of apple pie
1 large banana
¼ cup of peanut butter
3 pancakes, 6 inches in diameter 

Did you find your portion-sizing ability needs a "reality check?" Here are some helpful guidelines.

If you're unsure about portion sizes, read the Nutrition Facts on the food label of prepared foods. The Food and Drug Administration requires a standard food label making it easier to consumers to compare similar products and eat healthier. For a picture of a typical label and some tips on Reading Food Labels, click here.

The American Dietetic Association also often has some good tips on portion sizes.

Just remember, when it comes to portion sizes, bigger isn't always better....

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Last Reviewed: Jan 11, 2008

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati