November 2012: Portion Distortion

This month’s Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange newsletter is going to a broader distribution to keep you informed of the monthly nutrition education lessons going on in schools across the country. I’m personally involved with Community School and the Blaine County public schools, but there is much additional programming happening through the Nurture organization. So read on to learn what children are hearing about, and tasting, in their school programs. In the month of November we celebrate the wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving. While I truly love Thanksgiving, I do often recall the feelings of incredible discomfort after our rather large family meals. It seemed that I felt the need to stack my plate (probably an oversized plate for the occasion) just because that is what people seem to do on Thanksgiving. But wait…it seems that our stacked plates and huge portions seemed to have blended into an everyday event!

This month’s newsletter will examine the difference in our portion sizes 20 years ago vs. today.  We will also learn the difference between a “serving size” and a portion size.  Finally, we will review strategies to stay balanced in this world of the “Super-size” culture.  We’ll even learn from a 12-year old boy who took on this culture personally to create his own website and book, Portion Size Me.


How Portion Sizes Have Changed in the Last 20 years

You guessed it—they have gotten bigger.  But you might actually need to look at the numbers, from a caloric standpoint/number of teaspoons of sugar, to really get the gist of what is going on here.  Better yet, it is helpful to understand how much physical activity is needed to offset the larger portions we are consuming.  Here is a helpful review:

When McDonalds first opened in 1955,

they offered one drink size: 6.5 oz.

Now their kid’s size is 12 oz and their large is 32 oz



6.5 oz Soda

65 calories

3.5 teaspoons of sugar

12 oz Soda

110 calories

7 teaspoons of sugar

32 oz Soda

310 calories

21 teaspoons of sugar

Calorie Difference = 245 Calories


If you ride a bike for 50 minutes

you will burn approximately 245 calories*

* Based on a 160-pound person


Interesting, huh?  I was thrilled to hear about NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters in the city– the first restriction of its kind in the country.   Incredible when you look at the amount of sugar in the large drinks, a staggering extra 18.5 teaspoons of EXTRA sugar between the 6.5 oz (kids size 20 years ago) vs. the 32 oz. size still sold today in other parts of the country.  (If you missed the HKIE newsletter on sugar, be sure to review that post along with the HKIE extra on sugar and teeth!).

Will New York City take on bagels?

In the last 20 years bagels have nearly doubled in size

3-inch diameter

140 Calories 

6-inch diameter

350 Calories

Calorie Difference = 210 Calories


If you rake leaves for 50 minutes,

you will burn approximately 210 calories.*

* Based on a 160-pound person 

That is a lot of leaves to rake.  Enough said.

If you are really a visual person and want to see some out-of-control pictures (gross!) of foods, here is some entertainment for you.

So what are all of us to do about this out-of-control portion issue?

Here are a few ideas:

1.       Understand the difference between a “portion size” and a “serving size”. 

 A serving is a specified or standard amount, for example 1/4 cup of ice cream. A portion is how much food or drink you eat in one sitting.

What do you think is typically larger– a serving or a portion size?  Yup, typically a portion size.

Check the Nutrition Facts label to find out how many servings are in a “bag”.

4 servings in one bag!

If you eat the entire bag, you need to multiply the nutrition information by 4!

620 calories

44 grams of fat





2.       Know that You are in Control of Your Portions.

Take inspiration from a 12 year old boy (who I recently met, by the way, at the Healthy Kids Lunchtime Challenge). After being bullied about his weight, 6th grader Marshall Reid had a great idea to address a difficult problem:  “Mom, let’s do the opposite of ‘Super Size Me’ ” — Morgan Spurlock’s documentary about a McDonald’s-only diet for 30 days — “and be healthy for a month. I’m tired of this.”   His efforts led to a YouTube channel and the book Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthy Family.

3.      Use Smart Strategies to Control of Your Portions.

  • MyPlate and Harvard’s Healthy Plate offer great visual clues (better to use a 9”plate instead of a 12” plate).  If you are filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, you are ahead of the game!
  • Share snacks with friends and family.  All foods can be enjoyed in moderation; rather than eliminating sweets or salty snacks from your diet, enjoy them in smaller portions
  • Check out nutrition labels to find out how many servings are in one package – then do the math!  Don’t eat directly from the box or bag, pour servings onto a plate and put the bag away.
  • Post these Portion Size Guidelines on your fridge!
  • Use this bookmark to remind yourself of portion sizes!
  • Think you’re size-wise? Take the portion distortion quiz!

Before I say goodbye, I wanted to report that Food Day 2012 was a huge success.   So many things are happening to make local and real food consumption a reality.  In Blaine  County, we have a new organization called 5B Local Food, a collaborative effort to enhance the local foodshed.  A foodshed is everything between where a food is produced and where a food is consumed.

5B Local Food’s website quotes Michael Pollan:
“These days this is easier said than done especially when seventeen thousand new products show up in the supermarket each year all vying for your food dollar. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food – I call them edible food like substances. They’re highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.”

To help support 5B Local Food, Blaine County Residents and Visitors are invited to fill out our Local Food survey.  You can fill it out between November 1st and January 14, 2013. Thank you!

Have a great month and Happy Thanksgiving,


Additional Resources:

If you like our website, please help others to find out about it.  If you have a blog or website, or know someone who does, please consider linking to Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange.  Invite friends to join the newsletter distribution list, add us to your Facebook and Twitter or Pin Us on Pinterest.

Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Delicious and Nutritious, Green and Plenty and Wholesome Heart Blogs!

Delicious and Nutritious recipes are kid tested and range from breakfast to snacks.  We occasionally include a dessert as well –which we know is probably more delicious than it is nutritious, but we feel that people need a sweet treat here and there.  We hope you are inspired by our ideas!

Green and Plenty  presents the latest in nutrition, delicious and seasonal recipes, green design and wellness tips for the reader and her family.

Wholesome Heart  includes delicious recipes, time-saving tips, and nutrition tidbits.


This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.

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