COFFEE shop muffins the size of softballs are packing twice the calories of their supermarket equivalent, dietitians have warned.
A study presented to the Dietitians Association of Australia National Conference in Sydney found cakes and muffins from popular coffee chains are around two-and-a-half times larger than supermarket versions and contain twice the kilojoules.
Researcher and Accredited Practising Dietitian Stephanie Liang, from the University of Sydney, found the average serve size for Australian coffee chain cake products was 148g, compared with supermarket cake products at 58g.
And the café cake servings contained an average 1,805kJ (431 calories), significantly more than the supermarket cake servings at 915kJ (218 calories) - with both exceeding the Australian Dietary Guidelines standard serve for 'discretionary', or unhealthy, foods at 600kJ (143 calories).
Ms Liang's study compared the serving size weights and energy (kilojoule) contents of 467 cake and muffin products sold in four supermarkets and eight coffee chains in Australia.
"Regularly eating kilojoule-heavy discretionary foods and larger portion sizes are key factors contributing to Australia's obesity epidemic. Cakes and muffins are commonly-enjoyed discretionary foods, and their portion sizes have blown out over the past decades," said Ms Liang.
Ms Liang applauded supermarkets for keeping serving sizes relatively in check but called on coffee chains to standardize servings of cakes and muffins so that these provide a maximum energy content of 900kJ.
"Australians need access to more appropriate, smaller portion sizes when eating out at coffee chains. This would help Australians to get a better picture of normal serving sizes of foods like cakes and muffins. Think the size of a tennis ball for a regular muffin and a golf ball for a mini muffin," said Ms Liang.
She recommends coffee chain visitors share a cake or muffin with family or friends, opt for cakes without icing and which are unfilled, and choose smaller sizes if available.
The NSW Ministry of Health has developed healthy food and drink guidelines that stipulate cakes and muffins sold in NSW Health facilities must be a maximum of 80g, which is around the size of a tennis ball.