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    Archive for the ‘portions’ Category

    In The News: Undersizing!

    story.blizzard.courtesyKudos to Dairy Queen (those are four words I never imagined writing!) for going against the “bigger, bigger, bigger!” trend and announcing that starting this July, they will offer “a 7-ounce Mini Blizzard [frozen dessert], 5 ounces tinier than its current “small” frozen treat.”

    As it stands now, a small Blizzard adds up to a mighty powerful:

    • 550 calories
    • 10 grams saturated fat (half a day’s worth)
    • 410 milligrams of sodium
    • 12 teaspoons of added sugar

    We can therefore roughly estimate that the new Mini Blizzards will provide:

    • 400 calories
    • 7 grams saturated fat
    • 320 milligrams sodium
    • 8 teaspoons added sugar

    While certainly not a “healthy” item (it’s almost as artificial as Heidi Montag), I am at least encouraged by the fact that consumers will now be able to order a smaller portion if they so choose.

    I would never suggest tracking down a mini Blizzard for an afternoon snack, but I live in the real world.  Almost every client I work with occasionally visits a fast food restaurant, and the availability of smaller portions certainly helps.

    International Dairy Queen’s associate vice president of communications Dean Peters, meanwhile, is clearly on a different page than I.  While he recognizes that this new Mini Blizzard will appeal to “smaller appetites”, he also states that the fast food chain “felt there was an opportunity with a smaller size Blizzard to perhaps bundle it with a combo meal or a food meal, as well.”

    I’ll take “brown nosing the stockholders” for $1,000, Alex.


    The Beauty that is Eurosizing

    DSC02625Last month while in Barcelona I snapped these photos of my two favorite “Eurosized” portions.

    First up — a chocolate croissant.  This was from a random local bakery deep in the heart of Barcelona.  It was not a “small” or “kid-sized” croissant; in fact, it was the only available size.

    Isn’t it perfect?  It allows you to satisfy a craving without going overboard.  Sure, you can buy more than one croissant, but by doing so you are aware that you are eating more than one (PS: it would take 4 or 5 of these croissants to equal one “normal-sized” croissant in the United States!).

    Then there’s this small ice cream cone.

    DSC02650It has been my experience that, at most United States ice cream parlors, a “small” ice cream cup or cone often consists of two — or even three! — small scoops of ice cream.

    In Barcelona, this was a one-scoop affair.

    What I love most about these portion sizes is that they make it entirely possible to include ice cream and pastries in a sensible fashion, thereby preventing food phobias.


    Must See 6-Minute Video Clip

    51TFRGSOMjL._SS500_As those of you who follow Small Bites regularly know, I am a big fan of Brian Wansink. I consider his research to be some of the most fascinating — and practical — in decades.

    In case this is your first time in this corner of cyberspace, Wansink — author of the must-read book Mindless Eating — is a Cornell University John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior and director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Laboratory.

    His fascinating studies have examined the subconscious effect large portions of food have on our appetites and consumption patterns.

    This short video (scroll down to the bottom of the page) details one of Wansink’s classic studies — the bottomless soup bowl.  Check it out!


    When a Can of Soda Just Isn’t Enough…


    Many thanks to Small Bites reader Katherine Bauer for sending me the accompanying image of a Coca-Cola billboard she spotted on her way to the supermarket.

    While Coca-Cola executives point out the new bundle of two 50-ounce bottles is meant for small families, I find it interesting that the billboard makes no mention of that fact.

    For all we know, the “enough for your meal” tagline can be directed to an individual consumer.  Even if two people split a 50 ounce bottle of soda with dinner, that’s an additional 300 calories per person!

    As Kate pointed out in her e-mail to me, the advertising campaign is confusing.

    Is Coca-Cola implying that BOTH 50-ounce bottles are enough for “your next meal”?  Or just one?

    On the positive side, the folks at Coca-Cola will soon be launching an 8.5 ounce bottle, thereby creating a more calorically-reasonable alternative to the current 20-ounce, 240-calorie bottle available at so many stores and delis.


    Numbers Game: “1” Tricky Order


    One slice of Sbarro’s pepperoni pizza contains as many calories as ____ slices of Domino’s 14-inch thin crust pepperoni pizza.

    a) 1.75
    b) 2.5
    c) 3
    d) 4

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Movie Popcorn

    popcorn bucketsCOB[In light of your post about calorie values in movie nachos], I have a related question — what about movie pocorn?

    — Purnima Anand
    Via the blog

    The figures certainly raise a red flag.

    First, some context.  Three cups of popped popcorn represent one serving, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture.

    That said, a small movie theater popcorn provides 9 cups.  A medium?  Anywhere from 12 to 14 cups, depending on the theater.  A large, meanwhile, packs in 18 – 21 cups.

    From a calorie perspective, this is what you’re looking at (before any fake butter is slathered on):

    • Small: 500 – 650 calories
    • Medium: 750 – 950 calories
    • Large: 1,000 – 1,250 calories

    Each pump of liquid “butter” adds anywhere from 130 – 150 extra calories.

    Remember, Brian Wansink’s most popular study on large portions and consumption was centered around popcorn!  Individuals who ate popcorn from large buckets ate more than those presented with “medium” buckets even though they didn’t report being more hungry (and the popcorn was a week old!).

    Here are my “I didn’t bring a healthy snack from home” movie-theater-survival tips:

    1. The absolute worst thing you can do is arrive to the movie theater hungry.  Make it a “dinner and a movie” night, rather than “a movie and dinner.”
    2. If movie popcorn is your thing, buy a children’s size (approximately 350 calories) for yourself or share a small with someone else.
    3. Skip the liquid butter.  Movie popcorn is already cooked in oil.
    4. If you go to the movies sparingly (no more than once a month), I don’t see a problem with getting a small order for yourself.  Plan the rest of the day accordingly, though (i.e.: leave the huge Chipotle burrito for another day’s lunch)

    Inflation at the Concession Stand — Again!

    2748073833_e4d38ea061_bI’m the first to admit I always sneak food and drinks into the movie theater.

    My decision to skip the concession stand is partially economic ($3.75 for a bottle of water?), but mainly about health (a homemade trail mix of raisins, raw almonds, and 85% cocoa dark chocolate is my favorite movie snack).

    Alas, yesterday night I arrived to the movie theater emptyhanded.

    Since dinner was part of the post-movie agenda, I only opted for a beverage.  A small beverage.

    After two offers of upgrading to a medium beverage for just 50 more cents, I was presented with a “small” 30-ounce cup.  As in, the equivalent of two and a half cans of soda — 360 calories.

    If you’re keeping score at home, that’s only two fewer ounces of soda than a McDonald’s large drink.

    What I find most disturbing is that, just a few years ago, a small movie theater drink clocked in at 24 ounces.

    Will portion distortion ever stop?

    PS: Can Small Bites readers outside the US let me know what constitutes a small fountain beverage in their country’s movie theaters?


    Numbers Game: Answer

    bowl+of+vanilla+ice+creamA study led by Brian Wansink and published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that subjects served themselves 31 percent more ice cream in a 34 ounce bowl than in a 17 ounce bowl.

    By the way, some of these subjects were nutrition professionals!  No one is immune from portion distortion.

    I find these studies fascinating because they frame the discussion of caloric consumption and obesity from a model that is simultaneously subconscious (when asked, subjects didn’t think they had served themselves more in the 34 ounce bowls) and environmental (if a self-serve ice cream bar only offers 34-ounce bowls, customers will serve themselves — and eat — larger quantities of ice cream).

    This is precisely why “personal choice” is not always a relevant argument when talking about healthier eating.

    Food companies love to wash their hands by saying customers always have choices.

    Consider, though, the following example.

    Burger King recently announced the “elimination” of King Size fries (580 calories and 40% of a day’s worth of sodium).

    I say “elimination” because the King Size fries are still available — they are now called “large”!  Similarly, what used to be “large” is now “medium” and what used to be “medium” is now “small.”  These details were barely publicized.

    Keep in mind that Brian Wansink’s studies have also shown that most people tend to not register fullness until they empty their plate, no matter how extreme a portion they were served.

    How, then, do consumers have “choice” when they are unknowingly served an additional 100 or 120 calories?

    Similarly, a dining hall chooses to order one bowl size for the self-serve ice cream station.

    The best take-away lesson from these studies is that the size of serving dishes matter.  If you are trying to lose weight, implement the use of smaller plates and utensils — especially with high-calorie items.


    Numbers Game: Bowled Over

    Ice-Cream-ENTERT0605-deA study led by Brian Wansink and published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that subjects served themselves _____ percent more ice cream in a 34 ounce bowl than in a 17 ounce bowl.

    a) 17
    b) 22
    c) 31
    d) 40

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Monday for the answer.


    In The News: The Perils of Homemade

    The Boston Globe is reporting on Brian Wansink’s latest study (published in the Annals of Internal Medicine) — caloric increases in The Joy of Cooking cookbooks over the past eight decades.

    “The study, which looked at how classic recipes have changed during the past 70 years, found a nearly 40 percent increase in calories per serving for nearly every recipe reviewed.”

    Adding to the problem? It doesn’t appear anyone is complaining — or noticing!

    Considering that the average dinner plate’s diameter increased 36 percent between 1965 and 2005, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

    My two favorite bits of trivia?

    “The chicken gumbo… went from making 14 servings at 228 calories each in the 1936 edition, to making 10 servings at 576 calories each in the 2006 version.”

    And then there’s my dear colleague Lisa Young, who notes that the same exact brownie recipe yielded 30 brownie squares in the 1970s — but only 15 in a 1997 edition of the book!

    As an aside, from my own personal experience, I have found that baking recipes in Argentina tend to use approximately 25 percent less sugar than their US-based counterparts.


    Numbers Game: Objects on Plate May Be Larger Than They Appear

    The surface area of an average dinner plate in the United States increased ______ percent from 1960 to 2005.

    Source: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.

    a) 9
    b) 17
    c) 28
    d) 36

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer.


    Supersize Skies

    I arrived in my home country of Argentina earlier today.

    There are certain things I can always count on during my annual December trip: ninety degree weather, daylight past 9 PM, and looks of confusion when I mention things like “tofu,” “seitan,” “hummus,” and “vegan desserts.”

    Prior to arriving to Buenos Aires, I flew from New York City to Miami.

    I found the on-board snack choices quite interesting.

    We coach-class passengers could purchase a jumbo 450-calorie cookie for $3, an entire container of Lay’s Stax for that same amount, or a cheese/nut/raisin platter for $4.

    The platter aside (which, nutritionally speaking, I was very satisfied with), we are looking at jumbo portions being the ONLY options.

    As Brian Wansink and others have found, when food is in front of us, we are highly susceptible to eating it in its entirety, regardless of our hunger level.

    It boggles my mind that instead of offering, say, a 200 calorie bag of potato chips, the only option provided to passengers is a tube containining eight 150 calorie servings!

    Since some of these flights last 3 or more hours, it is completely feasible that what starts out as a desire for a small nibble could easily turn into intermittent snacking on three or four 150-calorie servings of potato chips.

    This is why I always recommending bringing your own healthy snacks on board. You’ll save money — and unnecessary calories!


    You Ask, I Answer/Perfect Pickings: Cereal

    I love cereal and eat it almost every morning but I often feel like the ones I eat are probably too sugary or not very substantial.

    Can you recommend a cereal or two that you consider healthy and nutritious?

    — Jenna Kozel
    Washington, DC

    Since the cereal market is so vast, I find it easier to recommend particular nutrient values and ingredients to look for in these products.

    The first thing to take note of is the serving size.

    Many brands of granola, for instance, use a quarter cup as their serving size, which is absolutely laughable.

    A lot of cereals, meanwhile, list their serving size as a half cup.

    If you have a measuring cup at home, please pour enough cereal into it to fill it to the brim. Yes, that tiny amount is what many companies use as a “serving.” Unreal!

    What I recommend you do as early as tomorrow morning is pour the amount of cereal you normally eat into a bowl.

    Then, use a measuring cup to determine the exact amount of cereal in that bowl.

    Keep that figure as a reference each time you read a cereal’s nutrition label, as it will help you make smarter choices when shopping.

    Let’s say you eat 1.5 cups of cereal every morning.

    If a cereal using half cup servings delivers 150 calories per serving, while another using 1 cup servings offers 200, you now know which is the better choice for you (in this case, the latter would add 300 calories to your day, while the first one would add up to 450.)

    You also want to pay attention to fiber content.

    I recommend anywhere from 4 to 7 grams of fiber per serving.

    Again, since the average person eats more than one serving of cereal in one sitting, I don’t think it’s necessary to track down cereals offering fiber in the double digits.

    Sugar values are also important. I consider up to 3 grams per serving to be the limit (especially since, again, most people eat two or three servings of cereal at a time).

    Be careful with cereals containing raisins or other fruit, as the naturally-occurring fruit sugars “unfairly” drive up sugar numbers.

    Twelve grams of sugar per serving from a cereal with marshmallows offers less nutrition than twelve grams of sugar from a cereal that contains raisins (which provide antioxidants and phytonutrients.)

    If you enjoy raisins in your cereal, you — and your wallet — are better off buying raisins separately and adding them yourself.

    Finally, take a look at the ingredient list. You want to this to be short and, ideally, be absent of refined grains (i.e.: enriched wheat flour.)

    When in doubt, look for the Whole Grains Council Stamp.


    Numbers Game: Rice ‘n Roll

    An average 6-piece inside-out sushi roll (rice on the outside, nori on the inside, as pictured at left) at a Japanese restaurant in the United States contains _________ of rice.

    (Note: 1 serving of rice = 1/2 cup)

    a) 1/3 cup
    b) 1/2 cup
    c) 1 cup
    d) 1.5 cups

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Baguette Portion Sizes

    Do you know what a 2 ounce slice of baguette looks like?

    Panera Bread Company lists its whole-grain, artisan baguette at 130 calories for 2 ounces.

    Not carrying my kitchen scale around town with me makes this less helpful than they might imagine.

    — Elizabeth (last name withheld)
    (City unknown), MI

    I love this question, because it shows just how hard it can be to estimate portion sizes when they don’t match our standard frame of reference (in this case, that would be sliced bread.)

    The best way to gauge baguette portion sizes is by keeping in mind that your average whole baguette clocks in at somewhere between 8 and 9 ounces.

    So, simply eyeball your baguette portion.

    If it would take approximately four identical pieces to make a whole baguette, then you have roughly two ounces in front of you.

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