Size mat­ters

Our por­tions are get­ting big­ger and so are our waist­lines. Philippa Ger­rard asks if go­ing large on that fast food meal deal or take­away cof­fee is to blame

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - YL MAGAZINE -

Is go­ing large on that fast food meal deal to blame for our waist­lines get­ting big­ger?

You might re­mem­ber a docu-film from the early 2000s called Supersize Me.

It fol­lowed an Amer­i­can film maker on a month-long ex­per­i­ment to eat noth­ing but McDon­ald’s fast food for 30 days.

If the chain’s staff sug­gested he might like to “supersize it”, as part of the trial he was obliged to say yes.

Over the course of the month he was reg­u­larly asked just that, mean­ing that dur­ing these meals he was con­sum­ing close to 2,000 calo­ries in one sit­ting.

This roughly equates to a day’s worth of calo­ries in one meal – and por­tions up to five times the rec­om­mended serv­ing size.

Back­lash from the doc­u­men­tary lead McDon­ald’s to junk the supersize op­tion (with the com­pany claim­ing it had planned to get rid of the choice any­way).

How­ever, that doesn’t mean that the brand, and thou­sands of oth­ers like it, stopped of­fer­ing con­sumers meals far big­ger than they would usu­ally con­sume.

A new cam­paign by Food Stan­dards Scot­land (FSS) recog­nises the very real habit of up­siz­ing, and says that do­ing it reg­u­larly could lead to an up­sized waist­line.

Ac­cord­ing to FSS, al­most half of Scots don’t think about the ex­tra calo­ries from up­siz­ing, go­ing large, buy­ing meal deals or adding ad­di­tional sides and ex­tras.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion says that what may seem like a small ad­di­tion or good value for money can have a much wider health im­pact, and with two-thirds of Scot­tish adults now classed as over­weight or obese, it’s clear they are calo­ries we can do with­out.

“The main is­sue is that the food we con­sume out­side the home tends to be on the un­healthy side,” said Gillian Pur­don, a se­nior Aberdeen­based nu­tri­tion­ist who learnt her ex­per­tise as part of the re­search.

“Spe­cial­ity cof­fees, fizzy drinks and chips are all in the top five food pur­chases made when we are out and about.

“These are all en­er­gy­dense foods, whereas fruit and sal­ads are way, way down the fre­quency list.

“The prob­lem in­creases when up­siz­ing is in­volved.

“Cof­fee shops might say ‘would you like a cake with

that?’ or fast food chains will of­fer to make your choice into a meal deal for just a few pen­nies more.

“Ob­vi­ously we aren’t ad­verse to peo­ple treat­ing them­selves on oc­ca­sion, but the usual choices on of­fer aren’t great; large fizzy drinks and large cakes for ex­am­ple, rather than per­haps wa­ter, fruit or even small cakes.

“We’re not say­ing ‘never’, we are just say­ing ‘not every time’.”

Gillian’s con­cerns are echoed by the fact that we are eat­ing out more than ever be­fore, and with mainly un­healthy choices on of­fer, the prog­no­sis isn’t great.

She ex­plains that the av­er­age per­son eats meals out­side of the home three to four times a week, whether it’s a lunchtime cof­fee and cake, a fast food drive-thru or din­ner at a nice restau­rant.

“When we eat out­side of the home our knowl­edge of nu­tri­tion goes out the win­dow,” said Gillian.

“It’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from buy­ing food in a su­per­mar­ket where every­thing is la­belled with the fat, sugar and calo­rie con­tent.

“See­ing prod­ucts la­belled with calo­ries is still pretty rare in a restau­rant set­ting.

“There are other tac­tics busi­nesses use to con­fuse con­sumers too. For ex­am­ple, many com­pa­nies don’t call any­thing ‘small’, and in­stead it’s known as reg­u­lar or some­thing dif­fer­ent en­tirely.”

This is il­lus­trated par­tic­u­larly in cof­fee sizing.

In Star­bucks, for ex­am­ple, if you’ve ever or­dered a tall drink – think­ing you’d be given a large size – then you’re sadly mis­taken.

In Star­bucks talk, tall means small, mean­ing it’s some­thing closer to the op­po­site of the word.

Grande is Ital­ian for “large” though in re­al­ity closer to a medium-size bev­er­age.

Venti means “20” in Ital­ian, and is the largest drink on of­fer.

The re­sult ar­guably en­cour­ages con­sumers to think a less about the size of his or her bev­er­age as well as the size of the bill.

“The FSS cam­paign against up­siz­ing is about rais­ing aware­ness of the fact you might not even re­alise you’ve been up­sold,” said Gillian.

“The re­sults of our sur­vey showed that a quar­ter of peo­ple up­size reg­u­larly, with women more likely to re­spond to up­siz­ing re­quests and of­fers.

“To fol­low up on this sur­vey we are putting to­gether a plan on how to help con­sumers make health­ier choices when they are out and about.

“One of the first steps for us is to en­cour­age busi­nesses to be re­spon­si­ble with their of­fers.

“How­ever we fully ex­pect they will say that they are pro­vid­ing what the cus­tomers want.

“In that sit­u­a­tion the change needs to come from con­sumers, who can both drive and de­mand changes in the in­dus­try.

“It’s a two-pronged ap­proach re­ally, with the most im­por­tant thing be­ing to raise aware­ness of up­siz­ing in gen­eral.

“Obe­sity is a huge pub­lic health cri­sis in Scot­land and we need to start tak­ing steps to ad­dress this from the root.”

“When we eat out­side of the home our knowl­edge of nu­tri­tion goes out the win­dow”

Think you know your cof­fee sizes? Think again. Many busi­nesses use de­cep­tive names, such as tall to mean small

The cam­paign is aimed at Scot­tish women, urg­ing them to con­sider calo­ries when eat­ing out

Gillian Pur­don high­lighted the mas­sive choice of un­healthy foods on of­fer

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