Health & Wellness

Increased Portions Lead To Increased Waist Lines

Are you trying to fulfill your New Year's resolution of shedding a few pounds before swimsuit season?

If so, it's important to eat correct portions, said Kris Saunders, director of the Family Nutrition Program.

"Eating more and cooking less has contributed to an obesity epidemic among Americans," Saunders said. "As a result, people have forgotten the size of a portion."

Today, 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are overweight, according to the American Obesity Association (AOA).

And the food industry has contributed to the problem by increasing portion sizes to increase profit margins, according to the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA). Many restaurants now offer super-size and value meals.

According to NANA, customers are encouraged to spend a little extra by purchasing larger portions and are leaving with the feeling they have "gotten a deal." These larger portions not only lead to a larger intake of calories, but studies show that when people are served more food they eat more.

And the consequences are severe. Obesity is the second leading cause of unnecessary deaths. Each year, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S., and healthcare costs of American adults with obesity amount to approximately $100 billion, according to the AOA. Discrimination and mistreatment of persons with obesity is widespread and often considered socially acceptable.

Saunders said people are often intimidated by the food guide pyramid because they do not understand the meaning of a "serving." For example, 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta and 3-5 servings of vegetables can seem overwhelming to eat in one day. To help, nutritionists have come up with some common guidelines to help people learn the size of a serving. One cup of vegetables is one serving; a meat portion the size of a deck of cards is also one serving, she said.

High calorie foods pack more wallop, Saunders continued. An Oreo cookie is two servings; the top and bottom are each one serving. Bagels, donuts and hamburger buns are all two servings. In fact, the bagel that many people eat for breakfast is actually four servings.

"Eating is one of life's great pleasures," said Saunders. "When we eat out, we want to get our money's worth as well as enjoy the food."

Saunders shared some helpful tips that can be used when eating out or eating at home.

"Spend 20 minutes eating and avoid too many sweetened drinks, including soft drinks and juices," Saunders said. "These drinks are easily consumed and are packed full of calories.

"When eating out, never super-size a meal unless sharing it with someone else," Saunders said. Request a to-go box with the meal when the server brings the food, then immediately put half the meal in the box. There is nothing wrong with having dessert; eat half of the main meal and half of the dessert. Save the other half for another meal, she said.

It's easy to have the attitude, "I'm paying for this food, and I don't want to waste my money," and keep eating until the food is gone, she added. The body may not need any more food, but people will continue eating. This mindset is often used when eating at buffets.

"Stay away from buffets," Saunders said. "And don't feel like the plate needs to be completely cleaned off. Take the extra food home."

Obesity is a disease that affects nearly one-third of the adult American population (approximately 60 million) according to the AOA. The number of overweight and obese Americans has continued to increase since 1960, a trend that is not slowing down.

The obesity epidemic has lead to increases in diabetes (type 2), high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease and cancer of the breast, prostate and colon. Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been known as a disease that affects older people. Now, however, many children and young adults have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

"Modest weight loss through portion control would help dramatically," Saunders said.

It is important to take personal time each day Saunders said. "The few minutes it takes to prepare a healthy meal and stay active can make all the difference in a person's health.

"Many theories have been shared about why so many Americans are overweight. The bottom line is Americans need to eat less and be more active," Saunders said.

Writer: Heather Butikofer, (435) 797-1650,
Contact: Kris Saunders (435) 797-3923,


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