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Portion Distortion Web Site: Learn How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain by Watching Portion Sizes

For Immediate Release:
November 18, 2004

During the holiday season, when gatherings and even shopping trips are often centered on food, weight gain can seem unavoidable. But watching portion sizes can help prevent those extra pounds.

New additions to the "Portion Distortion Interactive Quiz" section of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) Web Site show the difference in size and calories between portions offered 20 years ago and what is often a standard serving today.

"This site not only teaches people how portion sizes have changed and calories have increased, but also the amount of physical activity one has to do to burn up those extra calories," said Karen Donato, S.M., R.D., coordinator of NHLBI's Obesity Education Initiative.

For instance, you can still enjoy holiday cookies, as long as you know the calories they contain. Today, some cookies provide 220 more calories than those that were offered 20 years ago. After snacking on today's bigger cookie, you would need to wash your car for over an hour to burn off those extra calories.

And watch for those foods that may seem healthier for you. For instance, even a chicken Caesar salad can pack on the calories. One offered 20 years ago typically contained 390 calories, compared to more than 700 in those served today. You would have to walk your dog for over an hour to burn those calories off.

Since its debut over two years ago, the site has been a popular way to get people to think about their food portions and the calories they contain. This newer version includes more common foods and beverages like a slice of pizza, coffee and muffins. These are items that many people eat everyday without thinking of the number of calories that are in them. A mocha coffee typically contains 350 calories and a large muffin has 500, so be prepared to take at least a two-hour hike to walk off your breakfast.

"We hope that people will apply what they have learned about the portion sizes of foods eaten regularly to those special holiday dishes," said Donato.

The new Portion Distortion Web Site also now contains tools that can be downloaded to help health educators and dietitians use this information with their clients: PowerPoint slides for each illustration, and a serving size card that shows appropriate serving sizes and can be used as a quick reference tool.

The Portion Distortion Interactive Quiz is part of the "Aim for a Healthy Weight" program offered by the NHLBI's Obesity Education Initiative.

The NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative was established in 1991 to help reduce the prevalence of overweight, obesity and physical inactivity in order to lower the risk of developing and dying from heart disease and other conditions.

The quiz can be accessed at To interview Karen Donato, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236.

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