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Downsizing the Supersizing by Cheryl Koch, M.S., R.D.

Eating out with my toddler is always an adventure but, as a dietitian, I am shocked again and again at the sheer quantity of food that's served to a child these days. Every meal results in a "doggy bag" that yields multiple servings over the next few days.

Considering the lack of attention being paid to portions in children's meals, I wasn't surprised to hear recently that the size of the average meal at McDonald's 25 years ago is equal to the size of a McDonald's kid's meal today.

Since the 1970s, portion sizes have been expanding. Some of you may remember the smaller bagels or hamburgers of yesteryear. Both were about half the size with half the calories of their modern day counterparts. The American mantra of "bigger is better" doesn't pertain only to cars and houses; it now dictates the way we eat.

It's not just McDonald's where the menu's been supersized. Most fast food restaurants still offer a variety of portion sizes but, increasingly, family-style restaurants simply assume you want a larger portion. For example, 25 years ago you were likely to get 1 cup of spaghetti with sauce and 3 small meatballs (averaging 500 calories). Today, the same order will get you 2 cups of spaghetti with sauce and 3 large meatballs (averaging 1000 calories).

We shouldn't be surprised, then, that expanding portion sizes are related directly to our expanding waistlines.

What can you do to help control your own portion sizes? Here are a few tips:

-Make sure you look at the food label for serving size amount.

-Measure that serving size at home with a measuring cup to see what a single serving looks like.

-Estimate with your hand or common objects (such as a deck of cards for 3 ounces of meat) to determine how much you're eating.

-Share your meals with a friend or family member.

-Take half of it home. Order a "doggy bag" at the beginning of your meal.

-Order an appetizer portion instead of the entrée or choose a kid's or senior's meal.

Cheryl Koch, a registered dietitian and director of the food and clinical nutrition programs at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Posted on 07 Dec 2006 by coachgianni
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