Posted by: TTCLauren | July 24, 2010

The Hidden Costs of Super Sizing

excerpts from the American Institute of Cancer Research….

Americans who take advantage of larger sizes for just a few pennies more when eating out may get more calories than they bargain for.  NANA (National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, a coalition of over 225 national, state, and local health organizations) did a study of price, calories, and saturated fat in differently sized foods from fast food chains and convenience stores, theatres, and more.  They felt that the food industry’s ‘value marketing’ encourages overeating and contributes to the skyrocketing rates of obesity in adults and children.   Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy, says “Americans are constantly induced to spend a little money for a lot more food. Getting more for your money is ingrained in the American psyche. But bigger is rarely better when it comes to food.”

Among the findings:

  • Upgrading from a 3 ounce Minibon to a Classic Cinnabon costs only 24% more, yet delivers 123% more calories.  The larger size also provides almost three quarters of a day’s worth of artery-clogging saturated fat.
  • Switching from 7-Eleven’s Gulp to a Double Gulp costs 42% more, but provides 300% more calories.  Those 37 extra cents deliver 450 extra calories MORE than you would get in a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  • It costs 8 cents more to purchase a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, small fries and a small coke (890 calories) separately than it does to buy the large extra value meal, which comes with a large fries and large coke (1,380 calories).  “McDonald’s actually charges customers more to buy a smaller, lower-calorie meal,” said Wootan.
  • Moving from a small to medium bag of theatre popcorn costs about 71 cents (and 500 calories). A 23% increase in price provides 125% more calories and TWO DAYS WORTH of saturated fat (and that’s for UNbuttered!)

According to the report, turning a fast food sandwich into a value meal (adding fries/chips and soda) is responsible for the largest increases in calorie content.  Fountain drinks proved to be especially bad health bargains. They cost the least to upgrade and deliver the biggest calorie boosts (as well as the highest profit margin for retailers).

Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research encourages us to speak out.  Let the food marketer know you want healthy meals. Order a small or half size. Share the fries or bladder-bursting drink with friends.   In 1950 if you walked into McDonalds and ordered a burger, fries, and 12 ounce coke, you’d have bought a meal with 590 calories.  Today a super sized meal may contain 1,000 calories MORE.  As a result we are super-sizing our kids and ourselves.

Decline to take advantage of ‘more for less’ marketing even if seems cost-ineffective.  It’s foolish to order more food than you really want or need just because it seems like a bargain. Let restaurants and retailers know that you want reasonable portions at reasonable prices.  Good restaurants pride themselves on responding to consumer demand.

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