Size matters; Family fitness ideas
August 2007
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Size Matters
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. 1,2

Mega size, king size, double gulp, triple burger…these are just a few descriptors you 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.

Here 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 1970.
  • In the course of just three years — between 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 to 60.

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. 4 In 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 1,000 calories.

The largest fast-food companies are also involved in sleight of name. 4 For example, 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. Here 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 portions.

Here are some examples of small lifestyle changes that you can live with. Each eliminates approximately 100 calories.3

  • 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 all-you-can-eat deals.
  • 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 hungry.
  • At home, don't eat directly from the refrigerator/freezer or while preparing food. Instead, sit down and enjoy your meal or snack.
  • 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" — 10 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 health.

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 endless. 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

Francesca Zavacky is a program manager for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

My Story
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 weight was.

Actually I was fine with that until this winter. Read More…

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.
Makes 8 servings


  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (stems removed), finely chopped
  • 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 taste


  1. 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 and scallions.
  2. 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.
  3. Mix in the orange zest. Let the salsa stand 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to develop and meld.
This salsa keeps for 24 hours, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

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 Research,

phone: 406-686-4844

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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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