Fast food and portion distortion

Supersizing is tempting. Consider the serving size on the Nutrition Facts Label before you opt to up the size when making selections from a fast food menu.

Combo. Supersize. Supreme. Biggie. What do you think of when you hear these words? Most of us associate the descriptions above with fast food that is being offered in larger portions for a better price. But bigger doesn’t always mean better!

Over the last 20 years, fast food portion serving sizes have changed. The word “portion” is used to describe how much food a person chooses to eat at one time; whether it’s at home, at a restaurant or straight out of a package of food. If the portion selected exceeds the serving size, or the amount of food listed on the product’s Nutrition Facts Label, we may be eating two to three times more than the standard serving. The problem with eating larger portions of food is that over time we come to expect these serving sizes as normal. This is often referred to as “Portion Distortion”.

Cheeseburgers, fries and soft drinks are examples of fast foods that have increased in portion size over the past 20 years. Today, a half pound cheeseburger, large order of fries and 24 ounce bottle of soda can add up to over 1,600 calories and 53 grams of fat. When considering the U.S Department of Agriculture’s daily recommendations for men, women and youth, it’s easy to do the math and see the how larger portions can have a negative effect on a person’s diet and health.

Try these tips next time you decide to go out for a quick bite:

  • Avoid “super-sizing” when ordering fast food.
  • Consider sharing your meal with someone or divide it in half and take what is left home for another meal.
  • Try grilled or broiled lean meat in place of fried options.
  • Add lettuce and tomato or other fresh vegetables to sandwiches and stay away from high-fat toppings such as bacon, mayonnaise or special sauces.
  • Choose milk or water instead of soda.
  • Replace sides, such as fries or onion-rings, with fruit or yogurt.

For more information about portion size, refer to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). For information and resources related to dietary guidelines and healthy eating, visit MyPlate.

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