Study: Portion Distortion Big Factor in Battle of the Bulge

Web Producer: Brad Maglinger

Many Americans have no clue how big a serving should be. For instance, one serving of a bagel should be the size of a hockey puck, but most of the ones sold these days are closer to the size of a softball.

Aside from carrying a ruler or a scale with you at all times, there are some things you can do to make your portions more practical.

Let's start with breakfast. Some muffins are only one serving, but the ones we're more accustomed to seeing these days are three times bigger.

Nutrition expert Kathy Belcher says, "There's a 300 calorie difference between these muffins. Now, if we're going for the smaller muffin, round that out by adding fruit, yogurt. Those are the things we're often missing."

Those are the foods that help you better maintain your weight.

Now on to the midday lunch. Burgers, fries and sodas are now five times bigger than when they were first introduced.

"This is a super-size fry," displays Belcher. "There's enough there for six people. This is a small, even that is probably equal to two servings from the food guide pyramid."

It's easy to eat for more than one person at dinner as well.

Belcher explains, "A typical pasta meal in a restaurant is three cups of pasta. According to the food guide pyramid, that is six servings because a half cup is a portion."

Adding extras helps fill you up with fewer calories, and research shows dairy can even helps you burn more fat.

If you're not sure how much is too much, there are ways to guess.

"What I am showing here: This deck of cards represents a serving of meat, two to three ounces of meat. The tennis ball represents a half cup of mashed potatoes or any other food that you measure that way. The four stacked dice represent an ounce of cheese and that's considered a serving," explains Belcher.

As Americans, we want more for our money. But when you think about the cost of poor health, those value meals are anything but.

"If we do get large portions in a restaurant, increase the value by taking half of it home and eating it for lunch the next day," says Belcher.

For your free "Guide to Good Eating" and "Seven Ways to Size Up your Serving," call 1-800-651-MILK or go to and click on "Free brochures offered on our Fall 2003 television and radio interviews."