Monday, July 25, 2011

400 Calories

It's more or less an article of faith among many people, including many Americans, that Americans are overweight primarily because they've never met a foodstuff they didn't like. It seems that the idea of some morbidly obese person going to Crapplebee's and ordering a Grub-blaster Gut-bomb on a platter so large it takes three men to carry it to the table resonates with people (or at least their sense of moral superiority). But it's much more likely that rather than stuffing themselves, many Americans are simply eating calorie-dense foods. Like, for instance candy bars, which pack a LOT of calories into a small volume. The idea came from realizing that a King Size package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, which is 4 normal-sized cups or two of the Big Cups, has the same calorie count as three full pounds of broccoli. So I decided to take pictures of the two of them to illustrate just how much of a difference there was. And along the way I figured I'd grab some other foods, and add them in. And I'll likely add some more things (white and wheat bread come to mind) when I have time.

I also wanted to show that the smaller, calorie-dense foods do tend to be cheaper than the less-dense foods, especially when you're talking about prepared foods. (I'm somewhat surprised at the hostility you find to this concept - like the person online who derided the idea that "energy dense foods are cheaper" because, in his words, "this does seem to violate basic economics...," as if foods were priced by calorie count.) I only priced out those things that came in 400-calorie sizes, I didn't take the time to figure out what part of a bag of chips or box of crackers would cost, since you don't normally buy them that way.
So... here's part one of the project. The pictures aren't aimed at being artistic, although I'm sure that a competent photographer could do wonders with this. They're mainly about illustrating relative size, with the 11-inch dinner plate being a constant for a point of reference. Right now, I think that you get the contrast between the broccoli and the Reese's, but the rest of it all seems about the same size, so I'll have to see if I can find other things that really stand out when compared against one another.


Keifus said...

Here's an academic paper I bookmarked a while ago (but still haven't read). Their Figure 4 sums up your point.

Aaron said...

I don't blame you for not having read it - it's dry enough to part the Red Sea. Which is, I suppose, why I set out to photographically document something that I already knew to be true. I think a pair of pictures that demonstrate a massive pile of broccoli and a pair of Reese's cups just jumps out more.

But I'll likely have to learn food photography before it's really interesting.