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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Portion Size?

  • Chris Woolston, M.S.
  • Posted March 11, 2013

The next time you buy a large popcorn at the movies, consider saving the tub. After you wipe it clean, the neighborhood kids can use it as a fort.

From family restaurants to theaters to the frozen food aisle, portion sizes are expanding at an alarming rate. Not coincidentally, so is the typical American waistline. For all of the current talk about fats and carbohydrates, portion sizes may be the real cause of the obesity epidemic. How much do you know about healthy portions in a super-sized world? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. On average, Americans consume more daily calories than they did 35 years ago. How much more?

a. About 10 calories

b. About 50 calories

c. About 200 calories

d. About 500 calories

2. It's almost impossible for most people to eat just one portion if there's more on their plates. True or False?

____True

____False

3. The Lumberjack Slam Breakfast at Denny's -- including two buttermilk pancakes, ham, two bacon strips, two sausages, two eggs, bread, and a side of hash browns -- weighs in at how many calories?

a. 800 calories

b. 1,000 calories

c. 1,140 calories

d. 1,500 calories

4. Experts recommend adults eat two to three servings from the "meat group" (which includes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dry beans, seeds and nuts) every day. How large is a "serving" of meat?

a. About the size of a deck of cards (two to three ounces)

b. About the size of a dinner plate

c. About the size of a Tolstoy novel, large print edition

d. About the size of a manhole cover

5. According to a survey, which of these restaurant items makes the biggest mockery of the idea of a "serving"?

a. Cooked pasta

b. Chocolate chip cookie

c. Steak

d. Hamburger

6. Which of these steps can help you avoid overloading on calories?

a. Chew slowly

b. Drink plenty of water

c. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day

d. Stay the heck away from the typical family-restaurant entree, unless you share it with a friend or get a doggie bag.

e. All of the above

ANSWERS

1. On average, Americans consume more daily calories than they did 35 years ago. How much more?

The correct answer is: d. About 500 calories

Those calories really add up. If you don't increase your physical activity, an extra 500 calories each day could easily translate to an extra 40 pounds of fat each year.

2. It's almost impossible for most people to eat just one portion if there's more on their plates. True or False?

The correct answer is: True

People generally eat what's on their plate, even if they know it's larger than a typical portion. At least one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when a group was given smaller portions, that's all they ate. When they were given big portions, they cleaned the plate -- without reporting feeling any fuller than when they ate smaller portions!

3. The Lumberjack Slam Breakfast at Denny's -- including two buttermilk pancakes, ham, two bacon strips, two sausages, two eggs, bread, and a side of hash browns -- weighs in at how many calories?

The correct answer is: c. 1,140 calories.

This breakfast could feed at least two people. And even without the syrup and the butter (which would add 80 grams of fat), this high-fat meal is enough to slow anyone down. Unless the Lumberjack is headed straight for the fields for several hours of hard work, that's way too many calories, too. To put things in perspective, a person would have to do high-impact aerobics for two solid hours to burn off the calories in a Lumberjack Slam. Less strenuous activities -- say, planting seedlings -- would take a person four or more hours to work off that breakfast.

4. Experts recommend adults eat two to three servings from the "meat group" (which includes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dry beans, seeds and nuts) every day. How large is a "serving" of meat?

The correct answer is: a. About the size of a deck of cards (two to three ounces)

In this world of plenty, standard "servings" seem small. A few more examples: A serving of cooked pasta is only a half-cup (about half the size of your fist), a serving of cheese is only 1.5 ounces (about the size of four dice), and a serving of nuts is only one-third of a cup (a level handful).

5. According to a survey, which of these restaurant items makes the biggest mockery of the idea of a "serving"?

The correct answer is: b. Chocolate chip cookie

As reported in the American Journal of Public Health, the typical restaurant chocolate chip cookie is about eight times larger than the USDA serving size. The portions of other foods aren't exactly skimpy: You can get six servings from a plate of pasta, more than three servings from a typical steak, and more than two servings from a hamburger.

6. Which of these steps can help you avoid overloading on calories?

The correct answer is: e. All of the above

Whether you're eating at home or a restaurant, you don't want to bring a ravenous appetite to the table. If you eat light, healthy snacks throughout the day, you won't need an outrageously large dinner to satisfy for your hunger. Chewing slowly and drinking plenty of water can also help you feel satisfied with less. And remember: You never have to eat everything in front of you. If you can feel a gravitational pull from the food on your plate, you should share it, save it, or donate a few servings to the garbage disposal.

References

Denny's. http://www.dennys.com

McDonald's.http://www.mcdonalds.com

American Association for the Advancement of Science. The National Debt 1960-2007.

Fitness Partner's Activity Calculator. http://www.primusweb.com/cgi-bin/fpc/actcalc.pl

The American Institute for Cancer Research. The New American Plate: A timely approach to eating for healthy life and healthy weight

Rolls, Barbara J. et al. Portion size of food affects energy intake in normal-weight and overweight men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 6, 1207-1213, December 2002

U. S. Department of Agriculture. Inside the Pyramid. 2005. http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/index.html

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