To say that we are a Supersized nation is an understatement. We all know that most things food-related—from our serving sizes to our farm animals—have grown over the years. It turns out everything from houses, to dinnerware, to wine glasses seem to be part of the idea that “Bigger is Better,” and that’s having an impact on our health and the way we live. Take a look at how much things have changed over the years…
In the 1950s, a typical chicken weighed about 3 pounds. Today, a fully-grown chicken is almost twice that size—5 pounds. According to a spokesman from the National Chicken Council, that’s because the cost per pound goes down in processing when the larger birds provide extra meat. In a restaurant, that means more chicken fingers, nuggets and patties. At home, it means bigger thighs, heartier breasts… and heavier summer picnic baskets.
From 9 inches in the 1950s to 12 inches today, the average size of a dinner plate sets the stage for how much food we eat. A 2012 study showed that bigger plates mean larger portions and more calories, so if you’re looking to cut back, start with smaller table settings.
The cost of a slice may keep going up, but hey, you’re getting more for your money! Twenty years ago, two slices of pepperoni pizza averaged about 500 calories. Today the same order totals around 850 calories.
Movie Theater Popcorn
No matter what size you order, you’re over-snacking on this buttery, crunchy staple. An average “small” popcorn today has 670 calories and 24 grams of saturated fat. Do you really want to know about those large tubs? Okay, 1200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat—largely due to the coconut oil. That’s compared to 20 years ago, when there were about 270 calories in a small popcorn. Yikes.
Once upon a time, there were three sizes at Starbucks—Short (8 ounces), Tall (12 ounces) and Grande (16 ounces). Then Venti (20 ounces) came along and Short got the shaft, at least on the menu. Truth is, you can still order any hot drink as a “Short” and get an 8-ounce serving. Which, by the way, was the average size of a cup of coffee 20 years ago.
In the 1950s, McDonald’s only offered one size of fries—2.4 ounces and 210 calories. That size is now labeled “small,” and it’s a third of the weight of the largest size, which weighs in at 7 ounces and 610 calories.
If someone handed you a bagel with a 3-inch diameter today, you might think it was a cute little mini option, maybe from the kids’ menu. But that was the average size of a bagel 20 years ago, and it had a reasonable 140 calories. Today, standard bagels have a 6-inch diameter and 350 calories—oy.
Twenty years ago, we quenched our thirst with 6.5-ounce bottles of soda at 82 calories. Today, a 20-ounce bottle is standard, adding 250 liquid calories to your daily diet. Don’t even get us started on 7-11’s 50-ounce Double Gulps.
Red Wine Glasses
Kings’ goblets aside, most red wine glasses used to hold about 8 ounces. Today, they often accommodate up to 14 ounces—so keep the pour just under the 1/3 mark if you’re going for a recommended 4-ounce serving. If your guests think you’re being stingy, just tell them you’re practicing good portion control.
Twenty years ago, your average cookie was 1.5 inches in diameter and had about 55 calories. Today, big cookies are the norm, at 3.5 inches in diameter and 275 calories (hey, that’s the size of the bagels of yesterday!).
Where’s all this giant food going? In the giant refrigerators, of course! According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, today’s refrigerators average 22.5 cubic feet, up from 19.6 cubic feet in 1980. Hey, we need room for the oversized chickens!
It’s not just portions and waistlines that are growing—houses in the U.S. have gotten bigger too. The average size of a new home in 1950 was 983 square feet—and that was for an average of 3.37 people. By 2011, that number had increased to 2,480 square feet, to be shared between 2.6 people. So we’re taking up three times the space, per capita, that we did 60 years ago.
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