From Wallet To Waistline: The Hidden Costs of Super Sizing, was issued by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA), a coalition of over 225 national, state and local health organizations. The report compares the price, calories, and saturated fat in differently sized foods from fast-food chains, convenience stores, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, and movie theaters. Among the findings:
- Upgrading from a 3-ounce Minibon to a Classic Cinnabon costs only 24% more, yet delivers 123% more calories. The larger size also provides almost three-quarters of a day's worth of artery-clogging saturated fat.
- Switching from 7-Eleven's Gulp to a Double Gulp costs 42% more, but provides 300% more calories. Those 37 extra cents deliver 450 extra calories-more than you'd get in a McDonald's Quarter Pounder.
- It costs 8 cents more to purchase a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese, small French fries, and small Coke (890 calories) separately than to buy the Quarter Pounder with Cheese large Extra Value Meal, which comes with a large fries and large Coke (1,380 calories). "McDonald's actually charges customers more to buy a smaller, lower-calorie meal," Wootan said.
- Moving from a small to a medium bag of movie theater popcorn costs about 71 cents-and 500 calories. A 23% increase in price provides 125% more calories and two days' worth of saturated fat. (And that's unbuttered popcorn!) According to the report, the practice of "bundling"—turning a fast-food sandwich into a "value meal" by adding sides like fries and a soft drink-is responsible for some of the largest increases in calorie content. And fountain drinks proved to be especially bad health bargains. They cost the least to upgrade and deliver the biggest calorie boosts (and they provide some of the highest profit margins for retailers).
That's why consumers should decline to take advantage of "more-for-less" marketing practices, even if it may seem cost-ineffective, says Polk. "It's penny-wise and pound-foolish to order more food than you really want, just because it seems like a bargain," she says. "Let restaurateurs and retailers know that you want reasonable portions at reasonable prices. After all, restaurants pride themselves on responding to customer demand."