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Increased portions leads to weight gain

The Oct. 21st Wellness Wednesday will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  in the Children’s Hospital lobby and will focus on: proper portion sizes for reducing the tendency to overeat; Healthy Lung Month; Physical Therapy Month; Breast Cancer Awareness Month; and free chair massages (sign up when you come, first come, first serve).
by Dana Mitchel and Rebekah Feemster
MUSC Dietetic Interns
Today, the U.S. food supply provides 500 more calories a day per person than it did in the 1970s. The average portion sizes of food items have increased dramatically during the last several decades. Twenty years ago, a typical cheeseburger contained 333 calories.  Now it’s normal for American’s to run through the drive-thru of any fast food restaurant and pick-up a cheeseburger with about 590 calories.
Then and now portion size comparisons
Item                      then              now
Pizza (2 slices)      500 kcal    850 kcal
Spaghetti              500 kcal    1,025 kcal
Muffin                  210 kcal    500 kcal
Movie popcorn    270 kcal    630 kcal
Soda                    85 kcal        250 kcal
Bagel                   140 kcal    350 kcal
French Fries         210 kcal    610 kcal
Why have the portions increased?  It may be attributed to packaging, increased popularity of eating out, or need to get more for your hard earned dollar. Whatever the reason, increased portion size parallels the increase in the average body mass index of our country.
Weight gain is directly related to how many calories a person consumes. If a person eats more calories than their body uses during the day, they will gain weight. If they expend more energy than the calories they eat, they will lose weight. Simple, huh? As short-term studies show, the danger is that people presented with larger portion sizes will indeed eat more.
The increasing number of restaurants across the country contributes to our exposure to large portion sizes, as people strive for speed and convenience. However, the danger comes not only from the diner, but from our own kitchens as well. Our eyes have been trained to “eyeball” portions of homemade items much larger than the actual portion.  Also, prepackaged items come in portion sizes that really contain two to three servings. When we formulate our dinner plate it is based on the portion of the package as well as our own over-estimate of a portion size.
What can be done? Learn to recognize proper portion sizes of different food groups. Certain amounts can be associated with common household items—such as 3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards and one cup is about the size of a baseball. Such comparisons will help you control the amount of calories you consume, in turn controlling your weight, resulting in a happier, healthier, and longer life!
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Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.

Friday, Oct. 16, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.