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Popular Foods Growing With Waistlines

Even Hershey Bars, Beer Are Supersized Today
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WebMD Health News

Jan. 31, 2003 -- It's not just fast-food chains that supersize servings for an already XL-sized nation. Other restaurants and food manufacturers also have it their way -- and are providing heftier-than-ever portions that exceed federal standards, as well as their own.

Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced

In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.

Typical marketplace portions for many popular foods, snacks, and beverages now exceed federal recommended standards by as much as eight times, shows a study in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. What's more, these items are now typically manufactured in sizes up to five times bigger than when they were originally introduced.

For instance, today's typical bagel from a bagel shop is up to five times larger and has more calories than those originally introduced to the U.S. by Jewish émigrés. And it comprises up to six complete servings of the USDA Food Pyramid -- the entire minimum daily requirement in the bread/cereal/pasta category.

Meanwhile, the Hershey bar debuted in 1908 at 0.6 ounces; today, its smallest "single" bar size is twice as big, and it also comes in sizes up to eight times as large -- and that's outside of a movie theater. A bottle of Budweiser beer was seven ounces in 1976, but is now available in a bottle six times as large. And fast food restaurants? Their original sizes for burgers and drinks in the 1950s are lucky to be the "kiddie" offerings at some chains, joining revised and other products that are up to six times as large.

New York University nutritionists evaluated as many as 39 samples of nearly two dozen popular items. With the exception of one -- sliced white bread -- the typical marketplace portion size of every item studied was at least twice as much as the USDA portion standard for it.

"We selected the items on the basis of their popularity, and because they are among the biggest contributors of calories in the American diet -- although not necessarily the most fattening," says lead researcher Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD. "Based on this finding, I'd say that people need to start paying attention not to just what they eat, but also how much of it they eat."

But apparently, we can't get enough of these hefty helpings, which may explain why most Americans are consuming about 200 more calories each day than just a decade ago. In the average woman, 200 more daily calories than her body needs could lead to more than a pound of weight gain each month.

Just two months ago, Penn State scientists reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionthat most of the 51 normal and overweight people they studied couldn't judge an "appropriate" portion and continued to eat when given more food on their plate.

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