Factors Contributing to Obesity:
Growing Portion Sizes
Average portion sizes have grown substantially since the 1970s, changing people’s perception of a “normal” serving and contributing to a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity. Standard serving sizes of meals and beverages today range from a third larger to twice as large as they were 20 years ago. At home, the size of dishware — plates, bowls and glasses — has grown by as much as 36 percent since 1960, while recipe portion sizes featured in the Joy of Cooking rose by up to 42 percent between 1931 and 2006.39
Standard serving sizes of meals and beverages today range from a third LARGER to twice as large as they were 20 years ago.
Exhibit 8 shows how much portion sizes have increased.40 Twenty years ago, a cup of coffee held an average of 45 calories; today, a cup of coffee with mocha syrup represents 350 calories. An individual would have to walk one hour and twenty minutes to burn the extra calories consumed from just one serving. A cheeseburger contains an average of 257 more calories than it did 20 years ago. It would take one hour and 30 minutes of lifting weights to burn those extra calories.41
Making the right food choices can be difficult in these surroundings. Unhealthy foods are cheaper and more convenient and come in bigger serving sizes, while healthy foods can be more expensive, often require some preparation and are not always readily available.
Portion Sizes: 1982 and 2002
1 cup spaghetti
with sauce and
3 small meatballs
2 cups spaghetti
with sauce and
3 large meatballs
with mocha syrup
Source: National Institutes of Health.
All links were valid at the time of publication. Changes to web sites not maintained by the office of the Texas Comptroller may not be reflected in the links below.
- 39 Brian Wansink and Koert Van Ittersum, “Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms,” (PDF) Journal of the American Dietetic Association (July 2007), p. 1,103, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, “‘Portion Distortion’ May Contribute to Expanding Waistlines: Study Reports,” New Brunswick, New Jersey, September 1, 2006, (Last visited January 12, 2011.) (Press release.)
- 40 Kansas State University, “Sizing Up Portions with MyPyramid’s Guidelines,” (PPT) by Mary Meck Higgins (Manhattan, Kansas, 2005), slides 4, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 20, (Last visited August 20, 2010.)
- 41 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Portion Distortion II Interactive Quiz: Do You Know How Food Portions Have Changed in 20 Years?” (PDF) slides 3-5 (last visited January 12, 2011) ; and Kansas State University, “Sizing Up Portions with MyPyramid’s Guidelines,” slides 16-17.