Shape Up America! Newsletter
by Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD
Obesity is a major public health problem in
the U.S. and its prevalence is increasing in
adults and children. Overweight is associated
with a variety of medical conditions
including heart disease, hypertension, and
type 2 diabetes. The portion sizes of
commonly consumed foods eaten away from home
have increased in size during the past 30
years. One reason for the increase in obesity
rates may be that people are eating larger
food portions and, therefore, more calories.
Mega size, king size, double gulp, triple
burger…these are just a few
will see on a menu. A typical bagel today is
equivalent to eating 5 slices of bread or 15
cups of popcorn. A steak in a steakhouse is
so big that it is the equivalent in protein
to eating 18 eggs.
are some startling examples of how
portion sizes of commonly consumed foods have
increased over the years.
Portion Shockers 3
- At Starbucks, the Short cup of coffee, at 8
ounces, is no longer on the menu. The
smallest size is Tall, a 12-ounce cup that is
nearly twice as big as what used to be
considered a regular cup of coffee.
- 7-Eleven stores started selling 12- and
20-ounce sodas in the early 1970s. By 1988,
they were selling the 64-ounce Double Gulp.
- The famous Hershey chocolate bar weighed
0.6 ounce its first year on the market. Now,
the standard bar weighs 1.6 ounces, almost
three times its original weight. M&M/Mars
increased the size of several of their most
popular chocolate candy bars four times since
- In the course of just three years —
1984 and 1987 — the chocolate chip cookie
recipe on the back of the Nestlé's Toll House
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels package scaled
down the number of cookies it makes from 100
With the focus on increasing obesity rates in
both adults and children, we would hope that
food companies would scale back on portions.
However, according to my most recent research
on portion sizes at large fast-food chains,
portions are not getting any smaller.
many cases, they are getting bigger. Just
last year, Burger King introduced BK Stacker
sandwiches in four sizes: Single, Double,
Triple, and Quad. The Quad size has four beef
patties, weighs over 11 ounces and contains
The largest fast-food companies are also
involved in sleight of name. 4 For
last year Wendy's discontinued the terms
"Biggie" and "Great Biggie" to describe its
French fries and soda. However, the former
"Biggie" soda is now called "Medium," and the
company introduced a new larger size called
"Large." While McDonald's discontinued the
"Supersize" soda in 2004, it is now marketing
a new soda called "Hugo," the exact same
volume and calorie content as the
discontinued "Supersize." Unfortunately, we
eat more when served large portions, and we
don't even realize it.
Why should we care about large portions? With
the exception of plain water, larger portions
contain more calories than smaller portions.
is a chart that illustrates this point.
What can we do about large portions? Learn to
smartsize! One of my favorite food facts is
that you can lose 10 pounds a year by cutting
back 100 calories a day. That's a few less
bites of a dessert, a handful less of potato
chips, or a couple of fork-twirls less of
pasta. To trim calories, just trim your
Here are some examples of small lifestyle
changes that you can live with. Each
eliminates approximately 100
- Use one teaspoon of olive oil instead of 1
tablespoon when sautéing your vegetables. Try
putting your olive oil in a spray bottle.
(One brand is Misto).
- Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
instead of 2 tablespoons on bread.
- Switch from a 20-ounce soda to a 12-ounce
can. Better yet, switch to water, unsweetened
flavored seltzer or diet soda.
- Order a Tall cappuccino instead of a Grande
next time you visit Starbucks.
- Buy small pre-packaged bags (1-ounce
portion) of chips or pretzels instead of
eating out of a big bag.
- Split your favorite dessert three ways.
These tips can help you smartsize your
portions when dining out, food shopping and
eating at home. 3
- Steer clear of restaurants with buffets and
- Order "appetizer" portions or "half-size"
portions. Or share an entrée.
- Eat half of what you order. Ask for a
doggie bag and enjoy the rest on another day.
- When food shopping, avoid jumbo bags and
boxes of food.
- Buy single-serving portions whenever
possible. They may cost more, but your health
and well-being is worth it.
- Read food labels. Check for the number of
servings per container.
- Don't go to the supermarket when you're
- At home, don't eat directly from the
refrigerator/freezer or while preparing food.
Instead, sit down and enjoy your meal or
- Avoid serving food "family style."
- Learn to cook. Measuring out ingredients
gives you a feel for food size.
Lisa Young, PhD, RD, is an adjunct professor
of nutrition at New York University and
author of The Portion Teller Plan: The
No-Diet Reality Guide to Eating, Cheating,
and Losing Weight Permanently, Morgan Road
Books, 2005. For more information, go to
Increasing Family Physical Activity
by Francesca Zavacky
Parents strive to provide their children with
the best of everything. Yet, the rising
incidence of childhood obesity indicates that
too much of some good things can be a
problem. We take for granted that kids are
active, but today's busy lifestyles might not
necessarily provide children with the
physical activity that their growing bodies
need. The National Association for Sport and
Physical Education (NASPE) recommends
children get at least 60 minutes, and up to
several hours, of physical activity every day.
Deciding to be an active family takes some
deliberate actions. Parents must choose to
incorporate physical activity into the family
lifestyle early in childhood. As children get
older, their participation in physical
activity declines. It's best to start when
children are young and make a commitment to
physical activity every day!
With toddlers, encourage active play both
indoors and outdoors. Turn daily chores into
an activity adventure. Walking to get the
mail, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with weeds
or laundry and carrying the groceries are
tasks that encourage activity as an integral
part of daily living. When you model these
healthy practices, your children will adopt
the same habits.
As children age, provide activities with
greater challenge. Hiking in local nature
areas can be a great start. Start with timed
hikes, gradually increase the duration and
adjust the intensity by changing terrain or
speed. Brisk walking will elevate the heart
rate and provide a great cardio-respiratory
workout. Older children can use pedometers,
or step counters, which provide a tangible
focus on mileage. No nature areas? Urban
hiking in a city environment provides the
same benefits and exposes your child to the
wonderful diversity of your hometown.
Time is the number one cited barrier to
physical activity, and many families are
challenged to achieve the 60 minutes of daily
moderate physical activity recommended for
children. Try to infuse small doses of
physical activity into your family's daily
lifestyle. One approach is to "take ten"
minutes for a brisk walk, 10 crunches or push
ups at a time, or 10 minutes of jump roping.
All of these little physical activity
"snacks" can accumulate throughout the day
and become an hour of activity that your
child enjoys and that is necessary for good
The "take ten" approach works great for
adults, too. If your child sees that you are
physically active daily, they will try, as
well. Create opportunities for lifestyle
activity. Take active vacations and aim for
balance when scheduling activities, making
sure to include plenty of sleep.
Explore your community physical activity
venues together as a family. For example,
visit the local climbing gym, inline skate or
bike together — the possibilities are
NASPE has a physical activity brochure
called "101 Tips for Family Fitness Fun" that
can provide your family with some ideas. To
receive a free copy of the brochure, send a
stamped, self-addressed, legal sized (#10)
envelope to: National Association for Sport
and Physical Education, 1900 Association
Drive, Reston, VA 20191. For more
information about youth physical activity and
physical education programs for children,
visit the NASPE website at www.naspeinfo.org.
Francesca Zavacky is a program manager for
the National Association for Sport and
Physical Education (NASPE).
Cindy is halfway to her goal of losing 70
pounds, and she is still going strong. Her
effort and determination have motivated her
family to eat healthier and her husband to
lose weight, too.
I have been overweight for years and I have
earned each and every one of the pounds that
I put on. To count them, there is the
freshman 10, the 10 you gain after
marriage, the 10 you gain with each child (I
have three!) The 10 you gain at age 25 and
40. It all adds up to 70 pounds.
I have tried to lose weight off and on
through the years but with each 10 pounds I
would lose, I would gain 15 back. Finally I
decided that I was fat and happy so I settled
and accepted me for me…whatever the
Actually I was fine with that until this
If you would like to share your personal
success story and be an inspiration to others
who desire to lose weight, simply use our story
submission system on the SUA website.
Recipe of the Month
Enjoy this appetizing salsa dip with bite-size pieces of grilled chicken, pita wedges or carrot sticks.
BLACK BEAN AND ORANGE SALSA
Makes 8 servings
- 1 navel orange
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (stems removed),
- 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, white
and green parts
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp. canola oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to
This salsa keeps for 24 hours, tightly
covered, in the refrigerator.
- Grate 1 teaspoon of zest from the orange,
and set aside. Peel and section the orange,
holding it over a medium bowl to reserve the
juice. Chop the sections and place them, with
all the juice collected, into the bowl. Add
the beans, yellow pepper, jalapeño, cilantro
- Whisk together the lime juice and oil in
a small bowl. Mix it into the salsa, tossing
with a fork to combine. Season to taste with
salt and pepper.
- Mix in the orange zest. Let the salsa
stand 30 minutes before serving to allow the
flavors to develop and meld.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 65
calories, 1 gram total fat, 0 gram saturated
fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein,
4 grams dietary fiber, 166 milligrams sodium.
Source: American Institute for Cancer
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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD