We all are well aware of the increasing size of our population, not in terms of number but in terms of actual SIZE. Studies show that about 20-40% of children are overweight (varies depending on what groups of kids they are looking at), and there are many different theories why. Could be activity. One study correlated the increased and prolonged use of strollers to increasing weight of 2-3 year olds. Could be the increase in fast foods. Another study found that french fries were the most popular vegetable eaten by two year olds! Or the increased use of soft drinks made with the ever present "high fructose corn syrup". In one study, overweight school age children stopped drinking soft drinks with no other changes and ALL lost a significant amount of weight. But no studies have linked it to home cooking....until now!
Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab looked at recipes in the Joy of Cooking comparing recipes from the 1936 version all the way to the 2006 version. Overall, they found that the calories per serving in 17 of the recipes increased 63%! More fat, more meat, more butter, more sugar and larger portions (what once served 8 now was serving 4) contributed to the increase. There were also incidences where the calories came with greater nutrition, for example when raisins or nuts were added but overall the increase generally came from extra fat and sugar or the larger portions. They found similar calorie increases in other cookbooks such as the "Better Homes and Garden Cookbook".
While the calories may have gone up for many of the classic recipes, there are ways we can turn back the clock on calories. The one consistent theme is portion size. Remember when a cup was actually 8 ounces and not a Big Gulp and a hamburger was a hamburger not a Whopper?
Practice assessing portion sizes by going to "Portion Distortion" at
http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/. Not only will it show you how our perceptions of portions have changed but what you need to do to use up those extra calories.