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Prairie Fare: Competitive Eating Takes the Cake

With about two-thirds of U.S. adults classified as overweight, competitive eating doesn't exactly promote portion control.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

"They're neck and neck!" yelled the announcer, tongue in cheek I'm sure. The crowd cheered wildly.

I glanced up from preparing our Fourth of July dinner to see what my kids were watching. I thought to myself, "was it a horse race?"

"This is gross!" squealed my 3-year-old daughter.

"It's disgusting!" exclaimed my 12-year-old son.

"You're not going to believe this!" my husband said as I came into the living room.

My family was watching the final few minutes of a hot dog eating contest televised on ESPN, which is known for sports coverage. According to a report, 30,000 spectators watched it live. We were among more than 1.5 million TV viewers.

My daughter was right. The event was more than a little gross at times.

In the end, the winner chomped down 66 hotdogs with buns in 12 minutes. In second place was last year's champion, who had been suffering from jaw problems, but he made it to the table.

As I watched the competitors gobble hot dogs, I noticed they were surprisingly lean. Do they have superior metabolism? Do they get a lot of physical activity? Or, most likely, do they watch their portions when not in competition?

Feeding frenzies, such as this one, have become multimillion dollar international spectator sports. At events around the world, people watch champion eaters gorge themselves on hotdogs, doughnuts, pie, meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, ice cream, corned beef and cabbage and numerous other foods.

I suppose eating contests can be kind of amusing at times. The winners get a lot of attention and often nice prizes, too.

However, nutrition experts encourage self-restraint for a number of reasons. For example, eating too fast can promote choking. In 2002, a child in Japan choked to death in a school cafeteria while imitating an eating contest.

The International Federation of Competitive Eating, a governing body, supervises eating contests around the world. For example, the group provides safety standards, discourages home training and requires competitors to be more than 18.

With about two-thirds of U.S. adults classified as overweight, competitive eating doesn't exactly promote portion control. Some restaurants offer mammoth-sized meals, too. If you can eat it all within the time limit, it's free.

Here's a thought: If you have a competitive streak, consider training for a 5K, 10K or half-marathon, rather than a short-term eating marathon.

Enjoy your food. Slow down and savor the flavor. These are a few portion control tips from the National Institutes of Health Weight Information Network (

  • Take the amount of food that is equal to one serving, according to the Nutrition Facts label. Eat it off a plate instead of eating straight out of a large box or bag.
  • Avoid eating in front of the TV or while busy with other activities. Pay attention to what you are eating and fully enjoy the smell and taste of your foods.
  • Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full.
  • To control your intake of the higher-fat, higher-calorie parts of a meal, take seconds of vegetables and salads.
  • Eat meals at regular intervals.

I hope this tasty recipe doesn't generate an eating contest. A serving is one-sixteenth of the recipe.

Fruit Pizza


2 Tbsp. sugar

1 stick (1/2 c.) margarine or butter

1 c. all-purpose flour


8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese

1/2 c. powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. fresh fruit or well-drained canned fruit


1/2 c. sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 c. lemon juice

1/2 c. orange juice

1/4 c. water

Crust: Mix the sugar, margarine or butter and flour. Press into pizza pan or in a 10- by 15-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool. Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread on cool crust. Top with fruit. For glaze, mix remaining ingredients and cook until thick and clear. Pour over fruit. Makes 16 servings.

Each serving has 170 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 22 g of carbohydrate and 125 milligrams of sodium.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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