Although smaller sizes are still offered, the availability of larger drinks has also increased. Coca-Cola drinks are now sold in different sizes ranging from 7.5 fluid ounces to 24 fluid ounces. The original bottle held 6.5 fluid ounces, according to the study.
“It’s no surprise that so many of us are overweight because it’s so easy to be that way,” said Young, who is also an assistant professor of nutrition at New York University. “It’s hard to stick to normal portions when you’re bombarded with these ridiculous sizes.”
Food and beverage ingredients are cheap relative to other expenses, such as rent, staff, equipment, production and marketing, so it does not cost manufacturers to offer greater portion of food, Young explained.
“Consumers are happy because even though they pay a little more for a big portion, they get a lot more food. So it seems like a win-win, except big portions aren’t good for your turn of size,” Young said.
Food companies point out that customers can choose from a wide range of options.
“Hershey’s has always offered a wide variety of portion sizes and more palatable options,” said Jeff Beckman, spokesman for The Hershey Company, in response to the study results, via email. “Over the years, we have expanded our offerings, including…small snack bars introduced in the 1970s and, more recently, our many ‘thin’ offerings, which allow consumers to enjoy their Hershey brands favorites in portions.”
“By offering more beverages…in different package sizes, we’re giving our consumers more choices to choose beverages that fit their lifestyle and needs,” said Ann Moore, spokesperson for The Coca-Cola Company.
Both Burger King and McDonald’s say they offer a variety of serving sizes in their product portfolios and include nutritional information for menu items.
When you are served larger portions or buy larger sized foods, you can assume that the amount you are getting is the amount you should be eating.
“We think (the amount given to us) is a reasonable amount because ‘it’s what I bought’ or ‘it’s what I was presented with,'” Young said.
“If you eat 100 calories of your favorite chocolate every day, nothing will happen,” Young said. “It’s when you have huge portions of meals, snacks and drinks…which can easily lead to weight gain. That’s why we have an obesity crisis in our country. You don’t have no need to look any further than these unhealthy portions of food.”
And the larger the serving, the more calories, sodium, saturated fat, and sugar you end up consuming.
Master portion control
Here are some tips to help you reduce your portions and improve your health:
Limit portions of ultra-processed foods, which are among the most common culprits when it comes to oversized portions, according to Young’s study.
Here are other ways to combat portion distortion according to Young:
Chocolate: Whenever possible, always buy the smallest size. “You can get the half-ounce Halloween size all year round,” Young said. If you buy a larger size, treat yourself to one or two squares a day.
Fries: Get the smallest menu offering or split an order and get a vegetable as an extra side dish.
A soda: When you go out, take the smallest size available. If you’re at home, pour the drink into an 8-ounce glass, or if you have a 20-ounce tumbler, fill it halfway with ice.
Cereal: Avoid eating directly from the box. Scoop out the cereal with a 1-cup measuring cup, then pour the cereal into a bowl. This can help you visualize what 1 cup looks like.
Burgers: “Make it your meat for the day and make your dinner plant-based, like a bowl of quinoa, a salad, or a bowl of veggies,” Young advised.
Potato chips: Single-serving packages are best for portion control. You can also use a measuring cup to portion out larger bags, but be sure to put the bag away when you’re done.
Bagels and muffins: “These things are huge; a typical bagel is 5 ounces, a typical muffin is 7 ounces,” Young said. Try cutting one in half and heating up the leftovers in the toaster oven the next day.
Fill your plate with higher fiber foods, especially fruits and vegetables. They increase satiety and provide beneficial nutrients.
Order half portions in restaurants, especially with pasta dishes.
Don’t assume that one bottle or one bag is the amount you should consume. “A soda should be 8 ounces. If you have a quart-sized soda, you have four sodas,” Young said.
Still struggling to figure out the right portion size? Consider these size equivalents as a visual guide:
Baseball: 1 cup of fruits or vegetables; 1 cup cereal, pasta or rice
Hockey ring: 1⁄2 cup cooked legumes, hummus, oatmeal or cereal, or tomato sauce
Deck of cards: 3 ounces of salmon, chicken or meat
4 dice: 1 ounce of cheese
Cap on a 16 ounce water bottle: 1 teaspoon of oil, sauce, sugar or honey
Golf ball: 1⁄4 cup nuts or seeds
shot glass: 2 tablespoons oil or dressing
Dental floss container: 1 ounce of chocolate or a cookie
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, author, and CNN health and nutrition contributor.