Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookbooks and Portion Distortion

You are probably aware that restaurants are often guilty of "portion distortion" -serving portions that are much bigger than they used to be and much more food than you should really eat in one sitting! But, did you know that some cookbooks are equally at fault? A recent analysis of cookbooks published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at how recipes have changed over the past 70 years. They specifically looked at The Joy of Cooking cookbook published in 1936 and how the recipes in it compared to the 2006 edition of the cookbook. The study looked at 18 recipes that were present in all seven editions of the cookbook published since 1936 (chicken gumbo, corn chowder, plain omelet, Spanish rice, chicken a la king, goulash, biscuits, blueberry muffins, cornbread, brownies, sugar cookies, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, baked macaroni, waffles, apple pie, chocolate cake, and chili con carne).

The study found that the calories per serving in all of the recipes increased (by two-thirds on average). This was a result of not only the addition of more higher-calorie ingredients such as butter, meat, and sugar, but was also due to larger serving sizes. For example, in the 1997 edition of the cookbook, the basic waffle recipe made 12 six-inch waffles. In 2006, the same ingredients made about six waffles.

What can you do? Remember to be wary of the definition of a "serving" when dining out or preparing a recipe a home. You can often get a better idea of what a serving really is by looking at the calorie content of the "serving" (if it is available). Another strategy for controlling your calorie intake is to concentrate on filling 2/3 of your plate with plant foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains). The size of dinner plates has grown substantially over the years too. By using smaller plates (9-inch diameter or smaller), you can feel satisfied with an appropriate amount of food at meal time.

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