10/01/2012 04:58 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Back to the Future: A Return to Smaller Beverage Sizes

New York City's Board of Health recently approved Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to limit the sizes of sweetened beverages. The regulation restricts the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.

I published an opinion piece in support of the proposal for the New York Daily News. My piece, "Smaller sodas, healthier lives" can be found here.

As I write:

"This campaign makes sense at a time when the debate about soaring medical costs has taken center stage in the presidential election. Obesity is estimated to cost $190 billion a year ... The mayor's proposal does nothing more than swing the pendulum back in favor of more modest food portions.

Those portions have increased steadily over the years, so much so that we have grown accustomed to oversize portions and have come to expect them.

Portion sizes are now two to five times larger than they were in the 1950s."

Just how big have food portions become? The timeline below, which is based on my research in my book The Portion Teller Plan, highlights how our frame of reference has shifted.

Select Dates in the Supersizing of American Fountain Drinks

1954: Burger King offers a 12-ounce Small and 16-ounce Large soda.

1955 : McDonald's offers a 7-ounce soda.

1961 : McDonald's adds 12-ounce soda.

1962 : McDonald's adds 16-ounce soda.

1973 : McDonald's adds 21-ounce soda.

1988 : McDonald's introduces 32-ounce Super-Size.

1989 : Wendy's adds the Super Value Menu including Biggie drinks.

1999: McDonald's introduces 42-ounce Super-Size. The 32-ounce Super-Size is downgraded to Large.

2001 : Burger King introduces a 42-ounce King soda.

2004 : McDonald's phases out the 42-ounce Super-Size. The largest size is the 32-ounce Large.

2006: Wendy's add the 42-ounce Large size. Wendy's drops the term Biggie for its 32-ounce soda, calling it Medium.

2007 : McDonald's offers a promotion of the 42-ounce Hugo (previously called Super Size).

2011 : KFC introduces the 64-ounce Mega Jug.

2012: According to company websites, the following sizes are now available:

- McDonald's: 12-ounce Kids, 16-ounce Small, 21-ounce Medium, and 32-ounce Large.

- Burger King: 16-ounce Value, 20-ounce Small, 30-ounce Medium, 40-ounce Large.

- KFC: 16-ounce Small, 20-ounce Medium, 30-ounce Large, and 64-ounce Mega Jug.

- Wendy's: 12-ounce Kids, 16-ounce Value, 20-ounce Small, 30-ounce Medium, 40-ounce Large.

As I wrote in the Daily News:

"Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can't drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable -- a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let's see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion."

It is now time to return to the more reasonable sizes of the past, when obesity rates were much lower. Given the health consequences and enormous cost of our obesity epidemic, restricting large sizes of unhealthy sugary beverages is an excellent place to begin.

For more by Dr. Lisa Young, click here.

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