A new study found that calories in home-cooked meals have increased over time. Our senior food and nutrition editor explains why, and gives recipe-lightening tips.

January 19, 2009

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By Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
It's not just fast food that packs on the pounds

A new study found that calories in home-cooked meals have increased over time. The executive director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion said that recipes from The Joy of Cooking, first published in 1937, have jumped 63 percent compared to the latest issue of the book. The average number of calories jumped a whopping 168 calories per serving—from 268 in the original edition to 436 calories in the latest one. Huh? Haven't we all made the switch from butter and margarine to olive oil, and from whole fat milk and cheese to reduced fat varieties? Apparently the changes came from increases in fat and sugar, and...you guessed it, larger serving sizes.

Portion distortion
We know that restaurant portions have increased substantially over the last 20 years, and apparently we've kept up at home. What can you do to help fight the bulge in your own kitchen? Here are some tricks and tools:

  • Use serving controlled scoops to measure out batter: A 3-ounce scoop will allow you to make perfect-and perfectly sized-cookies.
  • Try mini pans: They make mini pans for nearly everything now, including cheesecake. Use your mini muffin pans for other items, like quiche and frittatas
  • Use grandma's dishes: Her dishes are probably a lot smaller than your 10- or 12-inch monstrosities. Or, use the salad plate from your set to help control portions. That one should be more like 8 to 9-inches in diameter. I like using little juice glasses to control my beverage intake. My husband thinks it's ridiculous, but calories from juice and sweetened beverages are adding to our country's growing waistline. And studies show that the larger our plate or bowl, the more food we'll pile on it.
  • Go Bento: The traditional Japanese style way of serving food can go a long way toward helping you control portions. Buy a set and make a point of filling each little dish with colorful fruit, veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. When you have a small amount of different foods it can help you feel more satisfied. The key is limiting the amount you start off with.

Read more about changing plates to lose weight from our weight-loss editor. See the newest and trendiest styles of plates, all under 10 inches in diameter.

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