Giant Duck in Pittsburgh

Is Supersizing off the Menu?

Supersizing — selling restaurant food with excessive calories — may be fading, according to a new study published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Sara Bleich and colleagues analyzed data from 66 of the 100 largest restaurant chains in America and found a 12% decline in the calories delivered by new menu items between 2012 and 2013. That represents an average of 60 calories trimmed from new menu items.

Their data set included fast-food outlets like McDonald’s and Subway, as well as full-service restaurants like Applebee’s and fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is typically wary of anything the restaurant industry does. But she was uncharacteristically positive about these findings, saying:

The whole obesity epidemic is probably explained by an extra 100 to 150 calories per person per day, so helping people cut 60 calories from their diet could make a big difference in the public’s health.

Supersizing was made famous by McDonald’s and then phased out around 2004 when it became notorious as an unhealthy food marketing practice. But the pace of genuine change is slow in the restaurant industry. Competitive pressures and consumers intent on getting more for their money make such changes a tricky business. 

No doubt, this change is good news. Better news will arrive when we see an actual difference in what people consume. That will be the next chapter.

Click here to read more in Medical Daily and here to read more from the Washington Post. Click here to read the study.

Giant Duck in Pittsburgh, photograph © Mark Dixon / flickr

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