Since 1995 - Non Profit Healthcare Advice

Don’t Be Fooled by Portion Distortion!

large bagel with meat and cream cheese fillingDoes it surprise you how small “standard” portions are? You and everyone else in America, it seems.

How much you should eat of a food, or official “serving sizes,” have not really changed over the years. But the food portions you actually eat have. Many experts think this is why so many Americans are overweight.

Have You Been Fooled?

For example, 20 years ago a bagel you may have ordered at a coffee shop was about three inches wide with 140 calories. Today, you are more likely to find a six-inch bagel with about 350 calories.

Similarly, it used to be normal to get an 8-ounce cup of coffee with milk and sugar, for a total of  45 calories. But now you are more likely to get something like a 16-ounce mocha coffee, with whole milk and mocha syrup — and 350 calories.

Or, a turkey sandwich on regular bread that you might have found at a diner 20 years ago had about 320 calories. Now, you are more likely to find a 10-inch turkey sub with all the trimmings — and a whopping 820 calories.

Want to Learn More?

These are all examples from a website sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The website, “Portion Distortion,” offers two interactive quizzes so you can test:

  • what you know about  extra calories in today’s larger portion sizes, and
  • how much extra physical activity it would take you to burn off those calories.

The site explains the difference between today’s portion sizes and official serving sizes. It also has a “Serving Size Card,” with hints on what one serving looks like for a variety of foods. You can print the card off and carry it around as a handy reference.  For example, the Serving Size Card says:

  • One serving of a baked potato is about the size of your fist.
  • One serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • One serving of ice cream or of pasta should be about the size of a half-baseball.

Check it out — and don’t be fooled any longer by portion distortion!

This article originally appeared in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission. 

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic.