Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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SIZE MATTERS: Your Food Portions May Be Making You Fat
by Dr. Reuven Bruner, Ph.D.

It's the season for eating . . . A helping of lokshin, a serving of kugel and a couple of potato latkes, a piece of chicken with the skin. Sounds like it's a harmless enough Chanukah meal, but maybe not. The problem is precisely with those servings and helpings because they may be a lot larger than they once were. The culprit — that uniquely Jewish phenomenon, known as super- sizing. But restaurants also have been copying the Jewish phenomenon with large servings.

As research clearly shows: When more food is put on our plate, we eat more. And when we eat more, well, you know what happens.

So let us ask you two questions: Do you really know how much you're eating? And has your portion size judgment gotten completely out of whack? You better take a closer look, before Chanukah time arrives.


A recent study by NYU nutritionist, Dr. Marian Nestle, Ph.D., looked at changes in portion sizes (including packaged goods and restaurants) in the past 25 years. Dr. Nestle compared these portion changes to federal recommendations in place during this time. Here are some of her team's findings:

* The American food supply now provides each American with 500 more calories a day than it did in the 1970s.

* Relative to federal standards, serving sizes have doubled, and in some cases even quadrupled, since the 70s, for virtually all foods except a slice of white bread.

* In many instances, so-called single servings of active people-friendly foods now greatly exceed the U.S. federal recommended serving size. Examples are: muffins by 333 percent, pasta by 475 percent and bagels by almost 200 percent.

* Kitchenware have also expanded in size, with restaurants now routinely using larger dinner plates, serving pans, glasses, even cutlery.

* Cookbooks have been affected as well. Recipes that used to serve 8, for example, now serve 4, meaning the serving size has doubled.

* Since the 1970s, single servings of soft drinks have tripled, with a 32-ounce soft drink now constituting the norm. French fries served at most American (nonkosher) food outlets have easily tripled in serving size during this period.

Super-sizing has led to another phenomenon: the value meal. These days, one can usually buy a value meal that includes a mega-burger, x-large fries and a gigantic soft drink for less than one would pay for smaller versions purchased individually. In essence, you end up paying less for more calories, most of which we don't need.

So, you get the idea? The public health implications from all this are profound, as researchers now point to expanding portion sizes as one of the primary reasons our waistlines are expanding as well. In the past two decades, the obesity rate in the United States has doubled among adults and children, and the diabetes rate has skyrocketed accordingly.

This research was done on non-kosher food and marketers. It can be assumed that there was considerable influence on kosher food marketing on the US. The application to other countries is less certain.

(C) 2005 Dr. Reuven Bruner. All Rights Reserved.

Contact him at: POB 1903, Jerusalem, 91314, Israel; Tel: (02) 652-7684; Mobile: 052 2865-821; Fax: (02) 652-7227; Email:


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