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Muffin Nation - Expanding Portion Sizes in America

Why is My Muffin so Big?

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Updated October 23, 2007

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Photo courtesy of Foodcollection/Getty Images

Food is getting bigger. Americans are getting bigger, too, according to recent statistics. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes, and pre-diabetes is exploding. Is there a correlation? It seems like it to me.

Back when I was a kid in the 1960s, a muffin was a smallish affair, usually home baked. A homemade blueberry muffin, using a regular-sized muffin tin, is about 100 calories and 6 grams of fat, depending on the recipe. It's about the size of a tennis ball.

In 1990, I was doing home catering and baking for farmer's markets. I remember when the "Texas"-size muffin tins came out. To compete in the baking business, I had to upgrade my muffins from regular to "Texas" size. Suddenly, my recipes for 12 muffins were only making six. But I felt the pressure to make the bigger muffins, because other bakers were having great success selling them. And the other bakers were trying to compete with the grocery stores and coffee shops, who were also making bigger muffins. So, my 100 calorie, 6 fat gram muffins became 200 calorie, 12 fat gram muffins virtually overnight.

Shortly after that, I left the catering business to pursue a nursing career. But I still noticed the trend towards bigger and bigger baked goods. Bagels were growing to twice their size. Cookies were literally becoming Frisbees. Individual servings of brownies and cakes were expanding to the size of bricks.

Why was this happening? Maybe it's a way to capture consumers. If the muffin is a good value for the price, people will buy it. More bang for the buck. The danger is that oversized portions begin to look normal to us. And we feel obligated to finish what we buy so we don't waste money. We feel like we should be able to finish a huge muffin because it's marketed as a single serving.

Taking a look at the calories and fat in the food portions we buy can be a reality check and help us gauge whether that huge muffin or slab of brownie is worth half the calories and fat we're supposed to eat for an entire day.

A blueberry muffin from a well-known coffee/bakery cafe can be as much as 510 calories and 19 grams of fat. I've seen giant muffins in grocery stores that have 28 grams of fat. For people who are watching their weight, that can be damaging to their diet.

What can we do to help our health? How do we fight the giant muffin? The easiest way to stay on a healthy track is to be aware of how many calories and fat are in the portions that we buy and eat. Keeping track every day can help us not eat so much. Split that muffin with a friend... or maybe two.

Sources:

"National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)." National Diabetes Statistics. Nov 2005. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). 22 Oct 2007.

"Muffins." Calorie-count Plus. About.com. 22 Oct 2007.

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  5. Why is My Muffin so Big ?- Expanding Portion Sizes in America - Diabetes and Portion Sizes - Eating with Type 2 Diabetes - Managing Weight

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