Portion distortion

In all our gnashing our teeth (figuratively of course – dentists would hate us otherwise) about portion sizes in restaurants and fast food joints and how it would be SO much healthier to cook ourselves, we’ve missed something. Our recipe books. Have you looked at the serving sizes there lately?

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine recently, our recipe books are contributing to our growing waistlines and have been doing so for a lot longer than those sneaky restaurants. According to an article on The Age website, over the past 70 years serving sizes have increased by almost 80 calories per serving.

They compared recipe books, in particular, the classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking, and compared the same 18 recipes over the past 7 editions. Only one stayed the same. From the article:

Of the 18 recipes published in all seven editions, 17 increased in calories per serving. That can be attributed partly to a jump in total calories per recipe (about 567 calories), but also to larger portion sizes.

Only the chili con carne recipe remained unchanged through the years. The chicken gumbo, however, 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.

This is not something I was even considering. How is it that something that made 14 servings 70 years ago can suddenly only satisfy 10 people now? Are we suddenly hungrier? Or are we so used to excess that anything less is not enough?

I try remember to pack a lunch in the morning but often I forget – either to take it with me or to cook enough the night before for leftovers. So I eat in the cafeteria at work and they pile my plate. I have to watch like a hawk when it comes to noodles or rice and yell out to stop after one pile (I yell nicely though). They look at me like I’m crazy because my plate is still “empty”. I know that I’ll eat it if it’s there and really, I don’t need it. But do we generally expect to fill our plates because we’re hungry or because it shows that we’re well off enough to be able to do so?

Was the Depression in 1936 the reason that the servings were smaller? As we’ve become “wealthier” have we become gluttonous? Will the current recession change that or, as The Guardian writes, is the recession ruining our health?

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