CLOSE

Portion Distortion: 10 Food Servings, Now Vs. Then

Ever wonder who decides how many Gummy Bears = 1 serving? (18) Or that one cup of Wheaties = 1 serving? Well, nationwide food consumption surveys do, but also the NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). So if you're wondering why a serving of ice cream is usually only a ½-cup (on their Web site the NHLBI says no more than the size of half a baseball), it's because that's what they've determined is the right amount to stay healthy. Meanwhile, we all know how many baseballs Baskin Robbins scoops into their hot fudge sundaes--enough to fill a small bathtub, right?

The NHLBI has studied portion explosion over the last 20 years and has done a lot of groundbreaking research. The good folks over at DivineCaroline.com used that research, re-purposed some NHLBI photos from a fun portion explosion quiz, and tell us that "in the 1970s, around 47 percent of Americans were overweight or obese; now 66 percent of us are. In addition, the number of just obese people has doubled, from 15 percent of our population to 30 percent."

Scary stuff, right?

This all starts to make a lot of sense when you look at the following images, culled from the NHLBI site and DivineCaroline.com. Clearly the majority of us are eating more than 18 Gummy Bears.

1. Two Slices of Pizza

You'd have to play golf (walking and carrying your clubs) for an hour to burn the extra 350 calories.

2. Bagel

Picture 25

You would have to rake leaves for 50 minutes to burn the extra 210 calories added over the last 20 years to the average bagel.

3. Movie Popcorn

Picture 28

You'd have to do water aerobics for 1 hour and 15 minutes to burn the extra 360 calories.

4. Cheeseburger

Picture 26

You'd have to lift weights for1 hour and 30 minutes to burn off the 257 calories.

5. Chicken Caesar Salad

Picture 29

Yes, even "healthy" food has exploded in size over the last 20 years. You'd have to walk your dog for 1 hour and 20 minutes to burn the 400 calories. (If you don't have a dog, you'd have to buy one first.)

6. Cup of Coffee

Picture 30

You'd have to walk 1 hour and 20 minutes to burn the extra 305 calories.

7. Soda

Picture 16

In the early '70s, 6.5 ouncers were popular. Today it's 20 ounces, or more (Super Big Gulp = 44 oz = 700 calories!) You'd have to work in the garden for 35 minutes to burn the extra 165 calories.

8. Turkey Sandwich

Picture 15

You'd need to ride a bike for 1 hour and 25 minutes to burn the extra 500 calories.

9. French Fries

Picture 17

You'd need to walk leisurely for1 hour and 10 minutes to burn the extra 400 calories.

10. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Picture 18

You'd need to houseclean for 2 hours and 35 minutes to burn off the extra 525 calories.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
arrow
History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
quiz
Animal Trivia of Escalating Difficulty
iStock
iStock

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios