December 26, 2006

Who made America fat?

One piece of the pie: Portion size

You don’t have to tell presidential candidates and wives what the food problem is in America.

It’s portion size and eating out.

In 2004, Susan B. Roberts, Tufts University food researcher, saw a nutrition study play itself out in the unlikely setting of the campaign trail. She noticed that many of the presidential candidates and their wives were complaining that they were getting chubby.

“Several of them said they’ve gained 20 pounds because of ‘campaign food’,” she said. “That’s what they call it. But what they’re talking about is food in the real world. The food environment has become enormously more toxic.”

“It doesn’t matter what restaurants you go to. The more frequently you eat out, the fatter you are,” she said.

“Real-world” serving sizes are much different from the portions of 30 years ago. From one-liter bottles of soda to popcorn buckets at the movies to two-pound pasta entrées at a restaurant, portion sizes have increased almost across the board. Compound that with the fact that Americans are also dining out and snacking-on-the-go more often.

With ingredients so inexpensive to begin with, both restaurants and food manufacturers found they could keep their profits up by offering consumers larger sizes for just a teeny bit more money. Americans, being suckers for value, were willing to “super-size” their meals if they thought they were getting a bargain.

To Roberts, portion size is the arch-enemy in the war on obesity. “If you dealt with portion size and price, you would be dealing with a lot, because people would be willing to eat less to make their lunch cost less,” she said.

“You know what I would really like? Restaurants to be required to provide healthy portions, and if they also wanted to provide bigger portions, they would have to cost twice as much.”

In Roberts’ world if you went to a sandwich shop for a 400-calorie sandwich, and they wanted to serve you an 800-calorie sandwich, they would have to be $10 instead of $5.

But every researcher, every nutritionist, every diet program attacks just one small part of the obesity problem. They attack YOU!

You are responsible to all of the problems. You are responsible for buying the extra large French fries, the extra large pasta entrée, the extra large pizza. No one holds the restaurant responsible as they try to keep increasing the profits at the expense of your waist and wallet.

This blog community is calling on all restaurants, cafeterias, and eateries to stop the portion poison.

Appropriate portions for an appropriate price

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