Think Before You Eat

By Septima Glenn

“Would you like to super-size that?”

These are the words that were heard from a McDonald’s cashier before ordering a meal. However, the end of 2004 brought an end to the supersize menu. McDonald’s phased out the supersized menu because the company, along with the rest of the American public, realized how the large portions of fast food were adding on pounds. Today, the more than 13,000 McDonald’s around the country don’t have the supersize name. But the portion sizes have not follow.

According to the McDonald’s web site, in 1950 when a small drink was ordered, the consumer received about an eight-ounce drink. In 2007, a small drink is 16 ounces. The drink sizes go up to 42 ounces. With 26 more ounces also comes 260 more calories. McDonalds is not alone with their supersize mentality. Both Burger King and Wendy’s have larger size drinks despite phasing out the extra large names.

Restaurants also use a method known as bundling. This method adds a soft drink and fries to an entrée and urges consumers to spend a little more to get a lot more. A study done by the Prevention Institute found that this method was responsible for some of the largest increases in calorie intake.

The large portions don’t just add calories, but they may offer more than the recommended daily intake of certain foods. With restaurants such as Hardy’s and introducing their one third pound Angus burgers, consumers are taking in almost all of the meat they should eat in one day. According to the USDA, people should only have 5.5 ounces of meat a day. When an five ounce Angus burger is scarfed down, that almost covers the meat intake for the day.

With obesity rates on the rise, many attribute the larger portions to larger waistlines. Wendi El- Amin University of Virginia Assistant Professor of Nutrition said it’s all about portion control.

El- Amin gave a presentation about eating healthy during Hampton University’s Black Family Conference. During the presentation she urged everyone in the room to take eating healthy seriously because general health starts with eating right.

“The biggest way to shave some calories off of meals is portion control,” El-Amin said. “Some people may try to fill their plate until it is overflowing with food, but you should try keeping everything on one level on the inside rim on the plate.”

Even though El-Amin suggestions sound good, for some people, especially on college campuses, the battle to give into a cheap and filling meal from a fast food chain and going to eat a more balanced meal in the school’s cafeteria is a hard one.

Students at Hampton University have a particular struggle with eating healthy food. Numerous students have complained about the quality of food in the school’s cafeteria and with Burger King, McDonald’s, and a take-out restaurant within walking distance, there is a high chance students will become patrons of these restaurants.

“Eating fast food is so much better,” Hampton University freshman Dashana Briggs said. “It’s tastes better, it fills me up and it’s cheap.”

At Burger King and McDonald’s, the two fast food restaurants that are closest to the university, students can get a quick and easy meal that is also easy on the pocket. What students may not take into account are the calories and saturated fat that is being consumed.

On average at Burger King, the Whopper costs $2.24, has 680 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat. By paying about a $1.70 more, you can add a medium drink and fries, along with that comes 1270 calories and 23 grams of saturated fat. For less than a dollar, the size can be upped to a large fries and drink, and with 1,710 calories and 29 grams of saturated fat.

The alternatives at McDonald’s are much of the same. The Quarter Pounder with cheese goes for about $2.33 and comes with 530 calories and 13 grams of fat. When students make it a meal it costs them about $3.74, 1,190 calories and 17 grams of saturated fat.

Some students think that if there were other alternatives, they wouldn’t always go for the fast food.

“Since you can’t have a car until you’re a junior, your options are limited here,” junior Patriece Richards said. “At least give me the option of having a Subway that’s close and I might take it.”

According to Restaurants and Institutions Magazine, a magazine that follows consumer restaurant trends, 12 to year 19 year olds eat out more than any other age group. On average, this age group eats out about 24 times a month.

Many students take this quick and easy route and restaurants recognize the buying power these students possess.

“Restaurants know exactly what they’re doing,” William Phillips a District Sales Manager at Frito Lay, said. “They know students will always be hungry, they offer filling food that’s inexpensive, and they know HU students don’t like the cafe.”

Some suggest turning to the school’s cafeteria to receive a moral balanced meal. However, the choices there may not be as healthy as some may believe. According to Hampton University’s strength and conditioning coach, Zach Nott, the cafeteria is still about choices.

“When students go to the café they still have option,” Nott said. “If students choose to eat pizza and French fries every day, it is just as bad as eating fast food.”

When students come to the cafeteria they may not have the largest selection of food to choose from. With French fries served in both the traditional cuisine and fast food lines along with pizza and hamburgers served daily, students take what is offered to them.

“The café always has French fries and they always have chicken,” freshman Ermesha Fair said. “So that’s usually what I eat, chicken and fries.”

As students make their every day meal choices it is important to weigh all of the options to ensure that they are eating a balanced and healthy meal.

“No matter where you eat, it’s all about making the right dietary choices,” Nott said.