Context While general consensus holds that food portion sizes are increasing,
no empirical data have documented actual increases.
Objective To determine trends in food portion sizes consumed in the United States,
by eating location and food source.
Design, Setting, and Participants Nationally representative data from the Nationwide Food Consumption
Survey (1977-1978) and the Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals
(1989-1991, 1994-1996, and 1998). The sample consists of 63 380 individuals
aged 2 years and older.
Main Outcome Measure For each survey year, average portion size consumed from specific food
items (salty snacks, desserts, soft drinks, fruit drinks, french fries, hamburgers,
cheeseburgers, pizza, and Mexican food) by eating location (home, restaurant,
or fast food).
Results Portion sizes vary by food source, with the largest portions consumed
at fast food establishments and the smallest at other restaurants. Between
1977 and 1996, food portion sizes increased both inside and outside the home
for all categories except pizza. The energy intake and portion size of salty
snacks increased by 93 kcal (from 1.0 to 1.6 oz [28.4 to 45.4 g]), soft drinks
by 49 kcal (13.1 to 19.9 fl oz [387.4 to 588.4 mL]), hamburgers by 97 kcal
(5.7 to 7.0 oz [161.6 to 198.4 g]), french fries by 68 kcal (3.1 to 3.6 oz
[87.9 to 102.1 g]), and Mexican food by 133 kcal (6.3 to 8.0 oz [178.6 to
Conclusion Portion sizes and energy intake for specific food types have increased
markedly with greatest increases for food consumed at fast food establishments
and in the home.