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Posts Tagged ‘ McDonald’s ’

Growing portion sizes in the US: time for action

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post. I highlight key points from my latest academic paper on growing portion sizes.

The prevalence of overweight has increased in adults and children and shows no signs of decreasing. As I have previously written, large portions of unhealthy high caloric foods have indeed contributed to this problem.

In my latest paper, “Reducing Portion Sizes to Prevent Obesity: A Call to Action,” just published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine with my NYU colleague Marion Nestle, we discuss recent portion-size trends and offer several suggestions to address the problem with ever expanding food portions.

Here are some key points:

Portion sizes have continued to increase through the first decade of the 21st century. Top fast-food and restaurant chains continue to introduce new large-size portions. Food companies are introducing bigger burgers, burritos, pizzas, and sandwiches. Some of these single-serving items (meaning, they are marketed for one person) contain more than 1,000 calories. For example, Wendy’s Baconator Triple burger contains approximately 1,300 calories and Burger King Triple Whopper contains 1,140 calories.

As we illustrate in our paper, the trend toward larger portions coincides with the availability of calories in the U.S. food supply and the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity.

The food industry has not responded to pleas from public health officials to reduce portions, and most Americans have become conditioned and have come to expect larger portions. So what can we do about this continued trend toward larger portions?

We offer several approaches:

1. Education and Public Health Campaigns
Health professional should continue to advise patients on portion control and healthy eating.

2. Consistent Serving Sizes
The FDA sets standards for food labels and the USDA sets standards for dietary guidance and education. These standards are smaller than typical portions, differ from one another and may be creating more confusion. One uniform system is needed to better advise the public on the relationship between portion size, calories and weight gain.

3. Price Incentives for Small Portions
The food environment must support healthier food choices and encourage consumers to want to buy the smaller size. One way to do that would be to offer price breaks for smaller-size portions. Our current price structure encourages us to supersize. We can often get twice as much food or drink for just a few cents. We need to reverse this trend
by making the smaller size financially appealing.

4. Portion Size Limits in Food-Service Establishments
Policy approaches to limit marketplace portions should be considered. A recent policy conceived by Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, and recently approved by the Board of Health to cap the sizes of sugary drinks to 16 ounces, will be implemented in March 2013. I have been an active advocate of this policy, have previously written for Huffington Post about it, and do hope other public health departments follow in New York City’s footsteps.

In your own life, I urge you to consider such portion size strategies. Whether it be ordering a small instead of a large size, sharing a restaurant entrée, advising others to eat less, or getting active in a health and portion campaign, small steps in encouraging our food environment to support healthier food choices can ultimately result in reversing our obesity epidemic.

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The Battle Against Big Soda Continues

Below is a blog post just published for Huffington Post on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal on sugary beverages. Here is the link.

Several weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to restrict the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters, and food carts in an effort to help combat the obesity epidemic in New York City. The mayor’s Task Force on Obesity states that “Americans consume 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks.”

As both a researcher tracking the sizes of food portions (soda included — I have many oversized soda cups in my collection) and as a nutritionist counseling overweight patients, I continue to stay abreast of the latest developments in the proposed restriction on the sale of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages over 16 ounces.

It seems as if Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal may be contagious.

Inspired by Mayor Bloomberg, Henrietta Davis, the mayor of Cambridge, Mass. has proposed limiting the size of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages sold in city restaurants. Mayor Davis cited an increased risk of obesity and diabetes as reasoning behind the resolution.

Many of the nation’s physicians treating obesity-related illnesses also support the mayor’s proposal, citing that 46 percent of the nation’s intake of added sugars comes from beverages. The American Medical Association (AMA) also recently endorsed taxing sugar-sweetened beverages to a penny per ounce.

As I previously wrote for The Huffington Post, I support Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal for several reasons. Sugar-sweetened beverages are purely liquid calories and provide no nutrients, portion sizes of such foods have increased considerably over the last 50 years, and larger portions contain more calories than smaller portions and encourage overeating. I see it as a win-win situation.

The mayor of New York City is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than a reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

Others, however, disagree. Some argue that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal violates personal freedom and that the city should not dictate what size drinks people buy. The soda industry complained that soda is being singled out, and it has a website devoted to its case: www.letsclearitup.org.

At issue is just how large soda sizes have gotten. In the 1950s, McDonald’s offered just one size, 7 ounces, and Burger King offered a 12-ounce small and a 16-ounce large.

The following chart illustrates just how out of control portion sizes — and calories — of soft drinks have gotten in fast food establishments.

McDonalds

Kids 12 oz. — 120 calories
Small 16 oz. — 150 calories
Med 21 oz. — 210 calories
Large 32 oz. — 310 calories

Burger King

Value 16 oz. — 140 calories
Small 20 oz. — 190 calories
Medium 30 oz. — 290 calories
Large 40 oz. — 380 calories

KFC

Small 16 oz. — 180 calories
Medium 20 oz. — 230 calories
Large 30 oz. — 350 calories
Mega Jug 64 oz. — 780 calories

Looking at the above chart, it is clear that most sizes currently sold will not be marketed if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way. And, I will argue, for good reason. They contain mega calories. For example, the small size soda (and only size allowed according to the proposal) at KFC contains 180 calories, while the 64-ounce mega jug contains nearly 800 calories.

New Yorkers may or may not be able to purchase jumbo sodas next spring, but the mayor’s proposal has put supersized beverages on the line and is getting a dialogue going about portion size, soda consumption, and obesity. That, in and of itself, is progress. I commend Mayor Bloomberg for raising our awareness to the problem with oversized beverages. I am proud to be a New Yorker and look forward to the day when I will no longer be able to collect oversized cups.

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McDonald’s: Mexico versus US

I recently returned from lecturing at the annual Food Technology Summit and Expo held in Mexico City. I was speaking on the hidden costs of supersizing.  Portion sizes are a growing problem in Mexico as they are in the US; portion sizes have exploded there as well. It is no surprise that obesity rates are also very high in Mexico and resemble US obesity rates. Nearly 70% of Mexicans are either overweight or obese.

I was able to gather some nutrition and portion-size info from McDonald’s in Mexico and their menu looks much like ours (sigh!). Here is a summary:

  • Both McDonald’s in US and Mexico sell Big Macs and the Mexican Big Mac has around 30 calories more than the US version (569 calories in Mexico).
  • McDonald’s in Mexico offers a breakfast McMuffin a la Mexicana with 440 calories and 25 grams of fat.

  • Portions of French fries in the US are more caloric than those found in Mexico. The largest US size contains 500 calories while the largest size in found in McDonald’s in Mexico contains 410 calories.
  • Soda sizes are slightly larger in US McDonald’s than they are in Mexico but note the word slightly. In the US, the small, medium and large contain 150, 210, and 310 calories respectively. The Mexican soda portions contain 120, 200, and 280 calories respectively.
  • The McFlurry with OREO cookies in the US contains 580 calories–200 calories more than the Mexican version.
  • Like in the US, McDonald’s Mexico offers fried chicken nuggets in several sizes-4, 6, and 10 pieces.
  • McDonald’s Mexico offers a “Big Tasty” burger with over 800 calories! No wonder Mexicans are big!

Because so many Mexicans are overweight, diet food has become a craze there as well. Here is a photo from the frozen dietary dessert chain Tasti d lite, this one on Mazaryk Street in Mexico City.

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McDonald’s: U.S. versus Argentina

I recently returned from lecturing in Buenos Aires on portion sizes and, of course, I could not resist visiting a local McDonald’s. While Argentina does not require calorie posting, after asking several employees, I was able to get the nutrition information. Overall, their portions are large like ours, but there are some differences. To summarize: the burgers are pretty close, but Argentina’s Angus burger is larger and contains more calories. U.S. portions of French fries are bigger and contain more calories than those in Argentina, and the sodas are pretty comparable, except that Argentina doesn’t offer the kiddie size.

For kicks, below is a comparison.


FOOD                                                U.S.                                         ARGENTINA

BURGER

Hamburger                                 3.5 oz, 250 calories                  3.3 oz, 244 calories

Big Mac                                       7.5 oz, 540 calories                   7.1 oz, 495 calories

Double Quarter pounder

with cheese                                 9.8 oz, 740 calories                 9.3 oz, 764 calories

Angus burger

with bacon and cheese           10.2 oz, 790 calories                12.7 oz, 951 calories

FRIES

Small                                           2.5 oz, 230 calories                   2.5 oz, 211 calories

Medium                                      4.1 oz 380 calories                     3.6 oz, 299 calories

Large                                          5.4 oz, 500 calories                     5.1 oz, 422 calories

SODA

Kiddie                                               110 calories                                         —-

Small                                                150 calories                                    156 calories

Medium                                           210 calories                                    209 calories

Large                                               310 calories                                     312 calories

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McDonald’s Japan beefing up portions!

McDonald’s Japan is beefing up portions!

Americans are fat enough. And McDonald’s certainly hasn’t helped the situation by offering jumbo portions of cheap unhealthy foods. Yes—the company did away with its 42 oz “Supersize” soda after the movie Super Size Me debuted in 2004 (I made an appearance discussing growing portion sizes in the US.) The largest soda today is a 32-oz quart, called “Large.” (This 32-oz “Large”, by the way, was the same size of the original “Supersize” when first marketed in 1988.) As I wrote in The Portion Teller Plan, and in several academic papers with my NYU colleague Dr Marion Nestle, today’s Large is nearly 5 times the original size soda, which was a mere 7 oz (no where to be found today), when McDonald’s opened in the 1950s.

Well now, McDonald’s Japan is beginning to supersize some of its menu offerings. As reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, in an effort to boost sagging sales, McDonald’s Japan is introducing the “Big America2” series menu featuring several jumbo burgers named after US locales. The Idaho burger—containing beef, cheese, bacon, deep fried hash browns– set to debut at the end of January will contain more than 700 calories! McDonald’s is hoping it’s calorie laden burgers will be good for business.  As the authors Mariko Sanchanta and Yoree Koh write: “McDonald’s is banking on oversized burgers stuffed with nachos, hash browns or chili.”  And the company is going to use twitter and bloggers to spread the word.

Obesity rates in Japan are currently much lower than they are in the US. Pretty soon, however, if McDonald’s Japan supersizes its other menu offerings, the Japanese may become supersized like us. Hopefully not.

Here’s a healthful tip: When in Japan, choose sushi, veggies, and brown rice!!

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