The Joy of Supersizing?

Just about everyone has a cooking “Bible” – at my mother’s house, it’s the old Betty Crocker cookbook she got for her wedding. I have coveted that cookbook since moving out on my own 20+ years ago! When I moved into my own apartment, my father bought me a “new and improved” Betty Crocker cookbook, and it was a total disappointment: not only were most of the recipes different, but many of them called for a package of this mix or a bag of that one. No surprise, really, since what the cookbook pushes is use of Betty’s other line – processed, prepared foods!

Now the AP reports that not only have classic cookbooks changed recipes, they’ve changed the portion sizes in the ones that remain otherwise unchanged: “No joy in this cooking: recipes can make you fat” summarizes a study first reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine (the original article is available for a fee on that site). 

“There’s so much attention that’s been given to away-from-home eating and so much attention that’s been focused on restaurants and the packaged food industry, it makes me wonder whether it’s actually deflecting attention from the one place where we can make the most immediate change,” says Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink, who directed the study.

By tracking 18 recipes that appeared in every Joy of Cooking edition, Brian Wansink (author of Mindless Eating) determined that portion numbers were reduced, thereby increasing the amount of calories per serving. Apparently, this portion distortion has been going on in cookbooks for a while – first in the 1940s, then again in the 1960s, with the largest jump in the 2006 edition.

Makes you wonder who first invented the concept of supersizing, doesn’t it? It also makes you realize that it’s not only important to know how to cook with whole, close to the source (i.e. non-processed) ingredients – it’s also vital to understand how to eat: changes to portion size must begin at home.

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