How Have Serving Sizes Changed over Time?

Many researchers say that serving sizes changed significantly in the US during the growth of its obesity epidemic. For example, the average size of a serving of french fries in the 1980s was 2.4 ounces (68 g), providing 210 calories. Thirty years later, the average order of fries weighed in at 6.9 ounces (195.6 g) and 610 calories. Similarly, the average number of calories in a typical cheeseburger increased from 333 to 590.

More about portion sizes and obesity:

  • Consumers often end up drinking more soda or other sugary, calorie-laden drinks because they are offered huge cups at soda fountains. A 64-ounce (1,814-g) cup holds the same amount as 5.33 12-ounce (340-g) cans of soda.

  • During the 1980s, bagels were sometimes touted as healthier alternatives to rolls. The average bagels then were about 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter and contained 140 calories each. Twenty years later, the average bagel was 6 inches (15.2 cm) in diameter and contained 350 calories.

  • Dietary experts recommend that people develop ways of measuring realistic portion sizes. If weighing food is not possible, a person could reference the sizes of everyday objects to estimate healthy portion sizes. For example, a standard portion of meat, chicken or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards or the palm of an adult's hand.

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