Many millennials look at pictures of their parents and grandparents and notice that they were packing on a few less pounds when they were our age. Though there are a lot of reasons that weight is rising in the recent generations such as our lack of movement and love for french fries, grandparents often criticize health conscious trends saying they could eat anything back in the day and they turned out just fine.

portion sizes

Photo by Lauren Murray

One of the reasons why our grandparents were able to eat diner food without an obesity epidemic is the slow but steady increase in portion sizing of our food. In fact, since the 1970s the average size of foods from fast-food chains, restaurants and grocery stores has increased by 138%. Of course, with increased portion sizing comes increased caloric intake. 

Since these increases happen slowly over time, it’s hard to notice it happening. However, over the 40 year span foods such as bagels, muffins and pasta dishes have doubled in size. Over time, this has added hundreds of calories to our intake. Every one cookie you eat is two your grandparents could have eaten.

portion sizes

Photo by Meredith Ross

When discussing the large portion sizes in foods today, people often question the logic. Why would a restaurant give you more food for the same price? Well, since the 1970s the food industry has rocketed.

More people started to eat out, supermarkets started to expand, and the increase in demand made for a competitive market. Large packaging, bigger portions and a better deal gave manufactures the advantage they needed. Despite giving away more food, profits for most foods increase when providing a larger portion.

A healthy diet might seem hopeless since we have no control over how large our bagel is or how much a standard coke bottle holds, but the best solution is to be conscious of how much food we eat. This doesn’t mean to start counting calories, but you should be aware of how much energy you put in versus how much you expend. And there are a lot of strategies to make healthy choices when eating out.

portion sizes

Photo by Lawrence Yu

Most importantly, be informed that the portions may be bigger than you actually need to fulfill your hunger. Don’t just eat the whole serving because it’s there. Eat according to your hunger cues and satiety; leftovers can always be saved. And don’t dwell on the fact that the generations before you were smaller. Focus on making healthy choices, being active and treating yo’ self once a while to the quarter-pounder they never had the chance to back in the day.