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Which is it? The joy of cooking, or the joy of overeating.

Probably a bit of both.

I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Americans are eating more and moving less, which adds up to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. According to results from a 2009 study, 38 states had adult obesity rates above 25 percent. Eight states had rates above 30 percent. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent.

Colorado is currently the only state with rates under 20 percent. Although that looks good comparatively, our rates are rising as well. We’re simply the caboose on a fast-moving train going the wrong direction.

During the same year (2009), adult diabetes rates increased in 19 states. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 25.6 million American adults, 20 years or older, have diabetes. That’s 11.3 percent of people in that age group.

That’s a lot of people. If this trend continues, the CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050. The risks associated with diabetes are serious, but it’s also possible to mitigate the complications through lifestyle changes. In fact, there’s evidence that type 2 diabetes can be totally reversed. It’s not easy and for some people it’s far more complicated than this, but in general, it’s a fairly straight-forward prescription. Eat less, choose whole foods, exercise more.

Which brings me back to the point of this blog post. Eat less. Over the past 70 years, we’ve slowly decided we need (want) more calories. The words super-size me seem most suited to the fast food industry, but according to two creative researchers, that’s not the case. Bigger servings have even crept into such classics as The Joy of Cooking.

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that calorie density and serving sizes have not only increased in away-from-home foods, but in home cooking as well. To determine if there was a parallel, the researchers used 70 year’s worth of recipes from 7 editions of The Joy of Cooking as a longitudinal gauge. It’s a classic cookbook and a perfect one to study as it’s been updated every 10 years since 1936.

Well, what do ya know?

To make a long and rather convoluted story short, calories increased by 63 percent per serving. Changes in ingredients and serving sizes reflect the spike in calories.

Bottom line? If a recipe says serves 4, don’t believe it. They really mean, serves 6.

Peace, love and smaller portions.

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2 Responses to “this just in — size does matter”

  1. Oops, I’m the opposite! When a recipe says serves 4, it often only serves the two of us! That said, I do go heavy on the veggies and always alter recipes 🙂

    I digress … we were just talking about this with family yesterday. Interestingly enough, it was with my in-laws. They brought up the topic and were talking about how fat Americans are and how Canadians don’t have that issue (definitely false). They are both overweight, and my father-in-law (the one who was saying these things) is definitely obese and has heart disease. I’ve read stories about people who didn’t even realize they were overweight until they hit 300 lbs. I often wonder how it gets to that point, and how people can’t see what is going on with themselves. Maybe it is just too easy these days to be overweight and like you say, the “normal” servings are just too big.

  2. Kim says:

    I’m with Alisa on the portion size thing, but my husband and I have high metabolisms, eat mainly veggie-based meals, and are active, so that makes a big difference.

    I think it’s also a problem that because diabetes is so prominent, people think of it as “normal” and therefore don’t realize how serious the complications of the disease are. Decades ago, few people knew someone who had diabetes; now, you’d be lucky to find someone who didn’t know a diabetic. I think this “normalizing” of diabetes, overweight, and obesity is hindering the progress in reducing these conditions. If everyone around you suffers from one or more of these, then that is the new “normal” and the healthy weight, diabetes-free folks are the oddballs. Troubling to say the least…

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