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Obesity and Weight Management

Don't Be Fooled by Portion Distortion!

large bagel with meat and cream cheese fillingDoes it surprise you how small "standard" portions are? You and everyone else in America, it seems.

How much you should eat of a food, or official "serving sizes," have not really changed over the years. But the food portions you actually eat have. Many experts think this is why so many Americans are overweight.

Have You Been Fooled?

For example, 20 years ago a bagel you may have ordered at a coffee shop was about three inches wide with 140 calories. Today, you are more likely to find a six-inch bagel with about 350 calories.

Similarly, it used to be normal to get an 8-ounce cup of coffee with milk and sugar, for a total of  45 calories. But now you are more likely to get something like a 16-ounce mocha coffee, with whole milk and mocha syrup -- and 350 calories.

Or, a turkey sandwich on regular bread that you might have found at a diner 20 years ago had about 320 calories. Now, you are more likely to find a 10-inch turkey sub with all the trimmings -- and a whopping 820 calories.

Want to Learn More?

These are all examples from a website sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The website, "Portion Distortion," offers two interactive quizzes so you can test:

The site explains the difference between today's portion sizes and official serving sizes. It also has a "Serving Size Card," with hints on what one serving looks like for a variety of foods. You can print the card off and carry it around as a handy reference.  For example, the Serving Size Card says:

Check it out -- and don’t be fooled any longer by portion distortion!

This article originally appeared in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission. 

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Last Reviewed: Apr 07, 2014

Daniel T. Remley, MSPH, PhD Daniel T. Remley, MSPH, PhD
Assistant Professor
Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, & Wellness
OSU Extension
College of Food, Agricultural, & Environmental Science
The Ohio State University