Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Policy Point Wednesday - A Word About Serving Sizes

KFC's Double Down sandwich has opened up a whole conversation on appropriate eating: what started out as mostly an advertising gimmick has now found its way to the regular menu.  It's also made us look a little more closely at what we consider "disgusting."  For instance, NPR's article on KFC's creation pointed out that it really isn't that different from the McDonald's fried chicken club sandwich in terms of nutritional content.  While we all stand back and gape in horror at someone eating two chicken breasts with bacon and cheese - a double-bacon-cheeseburger (again, about the same in fat, salt, and calories) is a standard order in many places.

It's interesting to note what it takes to create such a media stir - another recent article pointed out 40 popular desserts at chain restaurants whose calorie counts are between 1,600 and 700 - so, just one Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae has about three times the calories of a double down, and about twice the fat.  These kinds of over-the-top desserts and meals are not new - anybody remember the Vermonster and its cousins?  Competitive eating has been around, well, since before the current obesity epedemic - the famous Nathan's hot dog eating contest was kicked off in 1916.  Between then and now, though, something about overeating has changed radically.

In 1950, for instance, daily desserts and meat-and-potatoes meals on which we now look askance were the standard - yet at that time, only 10% of the population was considered obese or overweight, as compared to over half our current population.   There have been many suggestions as to why things have changed - media, pace of lifestyle, access to food, ingredients - but it's clear that there has been a radical shift in our relationship to what we eat and what our bodies do with those calories.

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