Q: Is it just me or are muffins getting bigger?

Danishes, croissants and doughnuts have all swelled as portions get bigger

No, it’s not just you. While some chocolate bars have shrunk in size, bakeries are churning out bigger and bigger muffins, Danish pastries, doughnuts and eclairs.

Remember the neat little queen cakes many people grew up with? They have now morphed into towering muffins, many of which contain more calories than nine chicken McNuggets.

A chocolate muffin could contain more than 400 calories but if you wander into dangerous double-chocolate territory you could be facing 600 calories of decadence. Up to 400 calories could be lurking in an innocent-looking fruit scone while some almond croissants pack 500 calories. Apologies if you are tucking into that breakfast pastry right now, but you would need to swim one mile or spend an hour on a rowing machine to burn off a typical almond croissant.

Safefood, the all-island body that promotes food safety and healthy eating, put the focus on portion size this week when it published research showing that the size of many items had increased since the late 1990s. Doner kebabs are 177 per cent bigger, the humble battered sausage has swelled to almost twice as big as it used to be while spring rolls have also doubled in size.

It also contained something women have often suspected – men are unwittingly making us fat. The women interviewed by researchers said they ate larger portions when they were with men because they did not want to appear mean about food or, worse still, give their male companions the impression that they were neurotic about calories.

And the men? They viewed portion size as a test of their manhood. This leaves us in a vicious fat circle where women are eating more to impress men and men are clearing their plates so that women don’t think they are wimps.

While we are blaming others, we must not forget the Irish mammy. Apparently mammies were not always right, according to Safefood's Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan. She says people must forget what their mothers drilled into them. "You don't have to finish your plate," she says. "With two in three adults overweight or obese, the issue of portion size is relevant to all of us and we need to cut down on the portions we're eating of most foods." But what about the waste involved in ordering food and leaving half of it uneaten? Safefood advises asking for a "doggy bag".

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times