Patterns and trends in food portion sizes, 1977-1998

JAMA. 2003 Jan;289(4):450-3. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.4.450.


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 226.8 g]).

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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Eating*
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Industry / trends*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Restaurants
  • United States