People think that fast food drive-ins have greatly expanded their portion sizes, and while you can still order a ‘super sized’ meal from many fast food chains, the truth is that the portion sizes have been out of control for more than two decades.
“There is a perception that restaurants have significantly expanded their portion sizes over the years, but the fast food we assessed does not appear to be part of that trend,” said Lichtenstein, who is also the Stanley N. Gershoff Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
“Our analysis indicates relative consistency in the quantities of calories, saturated fat, and sodium. However, the variability among chains is considerable and the levels are high for most of the individual menu items assessed, particularly for items frequently sold together as a meal, pushing the limits of what we should be eating to maintain a healthy weight and sodium intake.”
One study led by a cardiovascular nutritionist states:
“For example, among three chains, calories in a large cheeseburger meal, with fries and a regular cola beverage, ranged from 1144 to 1757 over the years and among restaurants, representing 57% to 88% out of the approximately 2000 calories most people should eat per day. That does not leave much wiggle room for the rest of the day.”
Another study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute found that of 3,400 adults, teens, and children who ate at 89 different fast food restaurants in New England cities vastly underestimated the number of calories in the meals they ordered.
The study, published May 24 in BMJ, found that the meals ordered by adults contained an average of 836 calories. However, most people believed they were consuming meals that were around 650 calories.
When you add the salt and sugar content of most of this food (which also accounts for its high calorie count and low nutrient density) you can see why people end up being overweight, and sick.
While there are dozens of foods that are a mere 40 calories per serving and pack a nutritional punch that benefits our overall health, these foods are rarely used in the fast-food business model. The idea, after all, is to make you addicted to their food, and to crave more of it – not to be satisfied with less.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.