Servings on Steroids

Restaurant Meals Are Getting Too Big


What’s a serving of pizza, steak, or orange juice? How big should a sandwich, cookie, or brownie be? The servings at some leading restaurant chains (the left photo of each pair) make the (supposedly typical) serving sizes on food labels (the right photos) look like items on the kids menu. Could super sizes have something to do with the obesity epidemic? Nah.

By Bonnie Liebman & Jayne Hurley

(Note: Serving-size weights are based on an average of samples we purchased or, when available, are from the companies.)

Panera Bread Sierra Turkey Sandwich

Left: 11 oz., 730 calories. Right: 5 oz., 330 calories


What the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a sandwich is closer to a half sandwich at Panera and many other chains. Expect more bread, more filling...and more you.

Five Guys Fries

Left: 14 oz. (regular), 950 calories. Right: 3 oz., 200 calories.

The Food and Drug Administration says that a serving of fries is just 3 oz.—about what you’d get in a McDonald’s small. At trendy chains like Five Guys, a regular fries is 14 oz. Yes, almost a pound. Think that’s unrealistic? A large is 21 oz.

Starbucks Double Chocolate Chunk Brownie

Left: 3 oz., 380 calories. Right: 1.4 oz., 180 calories.

The good news: Starbucks’ brownies are smaller than they used to be (and smaller than those at Panera, Au Bon Pain, and many other chains). The bad news: they’re still too big.

Olive Garden Lasagna Classico

Left: 2 cups, 960 calories. Right: 1 cup, 480 calories.

According to the USDA, the serving size for any “mixed dish measurable with a cup” is, well, a cup. Tell that to Olive Garden or the other chains where a serving of lasagna can be two cups or more.

Einstein Bros Bagels Orange Juice

Left: 24 fl. oz., 340 calories. Right: 8 fl. oz., 110 calories.

The FDA says that the serving size for juice is 8 fl. oz. Tell that to chains like Einstein (aka No-ah’s Bagels on the West Coast), where the OJ is 16 fl. oz. Einstein even has a 24-ouncer. Oy!

McDonald's McCafe Chocolate Shake

Left: 16 fl. oz. (medium), 700 calories. Right: 8 fl. oz., 350 calories.

Even a small McDonald’s shake is 12 fl. oz. A large is 22 fl. oz. (A large Chocolate Shake has 850 calories, more than any burger on the menu.) 

Outback Steakhouse New York Strip

Left: 11 oz. (14 oz. raw), 620 calories. Right: 3 oz. (4 oz. raw), 170 calories.

The USDA says that a typical serving of meat is 4 oz. raw, or 3 oz. cooked. That may work for some hamburgers, but most steaks weigh 6 to 16 oz. raw. At Outback, the Porter-house comes in at 24 oz. Sheesh.

IHOP Harvest Grain 'N Nut Pancakes

Left: 9 oz., 820 calories. Right: 4 oz., 360 calories.

Who can afford 800+ calories’ worth of mostly white-flour pancakes? (We’re guessing it’s mostly white. The company wouldn’t tell us.) And that’s without butter or syrup. Yet the chain’s New York Cheesecake Pancakes, at 1,030 calories, manage to beat them. Thanks, IHOP.

Panera Bread Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Left: 3 oz., 400 calories. Right: 1 oz., 130 calories.

Remember when nearly all cookies were the di-ameter of an Oreo? Then restaurants started sell-ing cookies on steroids. Now they seem normal.

Qdoba Adobo Chicken Grilled Quesadilla

Left: 12 oz., 820 calories. Right: 5 oz., 340 calories.

If an entrée isn’t “measurable with a cup,” its serving size is 5 oz., says the USDA. Really? How many peo-ple eat less than half of Qdoba’s (or any other chain’s) Quesadilla?

California Pizza Kitchen Margherita Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

Left: 13 oz., 1,330 calories. Right: 5 oz., 510 calories.

At chains like California Pizza Kitchen, no one shares a pizza any more than they’d share a plate of pasta. And the calories top 1,000, even in a meat-free thin-crust pie. At Uno, an individual deep-dish pizza ranges from 1,500 to 2,300 calories.