Americans are eating larger food portions

All across America, the majority of individuals and families have increased the amount of food on their plates. According to a recent survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), within the past 25 years, food portions have become significantly larger and contain more fat and calories.

The increase of food portions, not to be confused with serving sizes, has led many researchers to question the cause. Many put blame upon the fast-food industries, claiming that the “super-sizing” phenomenon has led Americans to form the habit of eating more at each sitting. However, the main concern with this issue is how much the increase affects weight gain in society. Perry Franketti, associate director of University Dining Services, said, “You can’t totally blame the food industry; it comes down to the consumer’s choice.” Franketti, who acknowledged the increase of portions at University dining halls such as Commons and concessions such as the Galley, suggested that it is society’s background with convenient foods that has lead them to form habits of over-eating.

According to Franketti, the hamburgers on campus have become larger. In the past year or so, for every pound of burger Commons receives, they make three patties from it; as opposed to the four patties they took from every pound last year.

Rebecca Pobocik, associate professor of nutrition, said that although availability and affordability have drawn the consumer toward the fast-food industries, which offer the bigger sizes, there is a shared responsibility between the two. Even at sit-down restaurants, she said, food portions are larger. This is the case specifically in those restaurants that serve “family-style” helpings.

In addition, the sizes of an average muffin and cookie have increased. One muffin today may give consumers twice as many servings as one would have 10 years ago. As a result, people lose perspective on what is a serving, Pobocik said.

A serving, according to a publication of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, “is a unit of measure used to describe the total amount of food recommended daily from each of the food groups.”

The difference between the serving and the portion is that the portion is the specific amount of food, greater or less than the Food Guide Pyramid’s suggestion.

Between the years of 1977 and 1998, JAMA surveys found that the average soft drink size increased from 14 ounces to a much larger 20 ounces. This hike in portion sizes has lead to higher fat and calorie content.

These increases can lead to an extra 100 calories per day, which can equal up to an extra 10 pounds per year, said the JAMA researchers.

Within a decade, local and national statistics taken from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that one out of five Americans is obese. The JAMA research also concluded that the same hamburger that was served in campus dining halls, containing only 390 calories, now packs on up to 608 calories.

“We need to be aware of what we are eating,” Pobocik said. She advocates familiarity with the Food Guide Pyramid and its daily allowances. Franketti said it is only a matter of self-control and a change in an individual’s eating habits.

Nevertheless, what the increase in food portions comes down to is the idea of getting more food for your dollar. Franketti said, “It’s all value perception on campus. “[Sometimes] quality is not an issue.”

In almost all cases the eyes are bigger than the stomach, however, with this present trend, the stomachs may soon be bigger than the wallets.