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Sep 7, 2006 05:11 PM

Why are drinks in America so large?

I went to Panda Express (now hush, the orange chicken is tasty once in a blue moon -- all 500 calories and 27g fat of it) and as part of my lunch, I ordered a drink.

"Small, medium or large?" asked the cashier.

"Small," I said.

The small drink -- I measured later -- was 24 fl. oz. (709 mL).
The medium was probably a quart (32 fl. oz./946 mL).
The large was, after I asked, 44 fl. oz. (1301 mL).

Now, I know that a large chunk of the cup is taken up with ice, but are there really people who require 1.3 litres of Coke at one time?

A large Coke at McDonalds, which is 32 fl. oz. (946 mL), by the way, has 310 calories, or more than one-sixth of a typical American woman's dietary needs for the day.

The same thing is happening with coffee... after a long winter's sojourn in Canada, where I depended upon Tim Horton's to keep me from freezing my behind off, and where the large coffee is 12 fl. oz. (355 mL), I returned to the U.S., went into the donut shop near my house (cunningly marked "HAMBURGER TERIYAKI ICE CREAM") to get a large coffee.

She pulled down a fire bucket and filled it up with AN ENTIRE POT OF COFFEE. Now, this fire bucket of coffee cost me $1.80, and would have required twelve packets of sugar and a cup of milk. I ended up sharing it with three coworkers.

Even at Starbucks/CB&TL/Peet's/insert your favourite chain coffeeshop here, a large is usually 20 oz... of coffee!!

Why on earth do we need this much to drink? It can't be healthy.

I have started only ordering the smallest size, but even then the sizes creep up. In the case of Starbucks, there's an off-menu size ("short"), which is 8 oz., but not all baristas know it... but when I was a kid in New Jersey, a cup of coffee was 6 oz. in a small coffee cup.

Thank you for letting me rant... I know portion sizes are ridiculous, but the drink thing is getting out of hand.

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  1. You make me laugh...

    So what do you do in McD's when you want a large fries but a small drink with your meal? Keep 'em waiting at the drive thru line while they re-work the cash register? :-)

    Seriously though, I happen to drink a lot of liquid. I remember my mom having me checked for ?? as a kid. In college I had to be careful with the booze because I can drink fast and large amounts of liquid easily :-)

    BTW: I am not overweight, (before pregnancy I was about a 4) and I work out...just require liquids and I do not drink coke. I do allow myself a diet coke, once in a while.

    Anyway, I always used to order the largest size in CB & TL (Oh, how I miss it) and in other, I make a concerted effort to order a medium of anything (or smaller) and monitor my that I am pregnant, I have to be extra careful of everything except water so I tend to stay away from the rest, except a small cup of coffee in the am, half caf. My point that I abstain, I am aware of how large beverages are everywhere and even though there are smaller sizes offered, very few people go for the smaller size. Perhaps it is the financial thing... larger sizes offer better deals?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Michele4466

      Why are drinks in America so large?

      The same reasons AMERICANS are so large!


    2. I would guess that there's a demand for larger drinks. There are lots of people addicted to caffeinated drinks like Coke who need their gallon a day. In Supersize Me there was a comparison of the size of portions at McD here and overseas. The standard drink in Japan is equivalent to a child size cup here.

      Portion sizes are out of control in the US. I would relate this directly to the Obesity thread.

      7 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        I agree about obesity and portion control in the US... I was leaning toward the cost/ value thing but you are right, we just got used to bigger and bigger portions.

        I could not sit through Supersize Me, I was seriously ill a few minutes in but I got the gist...

        1. re: Michele4466

          I also started to feel ill during the movie and I never eat junk food. I found it funny that when the film started, about half the audience had their standard buckets of popcorn, soda and armloads of candy bars. As the movie progressed, more and more of the junk made its way to the floor.

        2. re: cheryl_h

          I routinely drink 32oz of soda but have never tasted Coke in my life. Does anyone actually drink sugar sodas anymore? I am 37 and have never heard of someone ordering regular coke.

          Now, I have heard various speculation that diet soda is making Americans fatter though I don't buy any of it. Calories in calories out is all that I think matters at the end of the day. I actually heard someone suggest that because diet sodas are so sweet they tweak our tastes to want sweeter foods. That is interesting though since I almost never eat anything sweet or any of the processed savory foods that are actually full of corn syrup I would say I'm an argument against this theory.

          And yes, I've switched over to water which I consume in even huger quantities than diet Coke, but I still get a 32oz cup at least a couple of times a week!

          1. re: Kater

            Oh, yes there are those of us who will only drink carbonated beverages without 'fake sweetener'.

            and then there are even more extreme among us, who wait for Kosher as not to consume high fructose corn syrup...just like we grew up with....


            1. re: Kater

              the slightest bit of artificial sweetener hugely increases my appetite. i don't know the mechanism, but living things are a lot more complicated than calorimeters, which is what the calorie unit is measured in. ie. we have hormones and all kinds of other factors that process food. we don't just "burn" it.

              1. re: fara

                I consider it a dirty trick when someone - without warning me - gives me a beverage with chemical sweetener in it. I can taste that vile stuff for the rest of the day. Aaack! Aaack!

                1. re: Sharuf

                  It's strange because apart from the Diet Coke I consume a largely organic diet with no processed foods of any kind. Someone once gave me jello made with Nutra Sweet and I wasn't sure if I would go on living - just awful!

                  But I genuinely like Diet Coke and have the Aaack! reaction if someone accidentally gives me real Coke. It tastes so flat and sugary!

          2. Because you typically need that much sweet and liquid to deal with the grease and salt from a typical fast food meal. I usually can't finish a can of soda at home, but at a fast food place really down it..


            2 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              You know, Dommy!, I think you're right... it takes me a couple of hours to drink a can of Coke (Zero) at home... but I chug it when I'm out. Part of it, maybe, is that it's refilled for me at many places.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I am able to down a can of diet coke in no time, unfortunately, and a large soda at the movies with ease. Not good in the long run. I think I am going to try to stick to my new regime even after the baby is born. Water ALL day long, sneak a diet coke every so often, out to dinner I drink a large pelegrino (seriously, with ease), one cup of coffee max in the am (half decaf) and of course, red wine and martinis are a given :-)

                I must say, I do feel good...

            2. Drinks are large because soft drink companies shifted tactics about 25 years ago from selling small units of soda made with more expensive ingredients, to selling large units of soda made with cheap ingredients.

              The idea is to make the consumer think s/he is getting a relative bargain: 32 oz. of soda for the same price as 10 oz. used to be! And the strategy has worked beautifully in the US.



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