This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
A fast-food giant is getting rid of super-sized portions. McDonald's will simplify its menu, and promises to provide a balance of choices for customers.
Fast food restaurants are feeling the heat from customers who want healthier choices. Americans are just getting fatter. But holding the super-sized fries may not be enough.
"Super-size me." This fast food motto fits a little too snugly on Americans these days. Too much food and too little exercise have supersized us.
Sixty percent of Americans are now overweight or obese. And the resulting health problems are costing our health care system $120 billion a year.
"And this is the beginning of the curve," says Greg Critser, author of a book that details the obesity epidemic in America. "So chronic disease consequences of the epidemic of obesity-- you can break health care, and make AIDS look like a bad case of the flu."
But just getting rid of super-sized fries may not be enough. How often you eat fast food may be key.
One study found teens who never ate fast food averaged a daily calorie count of 1,952 calories. Teens who ate fast food one to two times a week averaged 2,192 calories a day. But teens who ate fast food three or more times a week consumed 2,752 calories a day -that's 800 more calories a day than the teens who never ate fast food.
Those are extra calories that aren't always burned off. Eating just an extra ten calories a day adds up to an extra pound each year.
Critser says cutting down on portion size is also key.
"We tend to be pretty good at saying this kind of oil is better than that kind of oil, and don't eat at McDonald's," he explains. "But we don't tend to be very good at teaching children why they should have only one serving of something."
However, that's a tough order to fill. Research shows portion sizes everywhere, from restaurant fare to home cooking, have increased significantly in the past 20 years.
And people tend to eat the same volume of food over time in order to feel satisfied.
There are some good choices out there, but you still have to be very careful. For example, the crispy chicken cobb salad with ranch dressing has more calories and grams of fat than a supersized box of fries!
But if you switch to grilled chicken and use low fat dressing you cut the calories by half and have about a quarter of the fat.
Bottom line-- do the math.