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Study Suggests Portion Sizes Getting Out Of Control

Posted January 21, 2003
Updated November 7, 2006

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— Many people want to get their money's worth especially when it comes to food, but a new study finds that portion sizes are way out of control and not just when eating out.

These days, "super size" means super huge, which is just what Ewart Morris likes.

"Oh yeah, the portions are pretty huge," he said.

However, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claim portion sizes are getting out of control.

"We've seen these portion sizes increase at all locations, including fast-food establishments, restaurants and at home," said Samara Nielsen, of the UNC Department of Nutrition.

Nielsen and her team compared portion sizes from 1977 to 1996. In 1977, the average hamburger weighed 5.7 ounces. In 1996, it grew to 7 ounces, which is nearly 100 extra calories. Soft drinks also went from just more than 13 ounces to almost 20 ounces -- a 49-calorie increase.

The medium fries in a McDonald's value meal contain 450 calories and 22 grams of fat. When you super-size for just 39 cents more, the fries alone tack on an extra 160 calories and 7 grams of fat. Experts know many people will not completely cut high-calorie foods from their diets.

"If I say to them, 'Why don't you get a smaller size or why don't you not get a large french fries? Get a small french fries.' This is something that they seem to think that's more doable," Nielsen said.

Packaged foods like candy bars and chips have also increased in size, but most people still look at it as one serving. Experts say you should look at the label to see just how many servings there are.

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