Healthy Habits for Healthy Living
Anyone who has eaten out lately is likely to notice how big the food portions are. Your plate arrives and there’s enough food for two or even three people. It’s hard to find “small” anymore — “supersize” is more like it. Larger food portions usually contain more calories which may over time lead to weight gain and weight related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The amount of food you eat is just as important to your good health as what you eat.
The trend towards larger portion sizes began in the 1970’s and has continued to this day. For example, twenty years ago, a typical cheeseburger had 330 calories; today, it’s 590. The French fries you ordered on the side 20 years ago were a 2.4 ounce handful totaling 210 calories; today the standard order is a heaping 6.9 ounces, packing 610 calories. Bagels have grown from three inches in diameter and 140 calories, to six inches and 350 calories. And what used to be an eight ounce cup of coffee, with just milk and sugar at 45 calories is now averaging 16 ounces and 350 calories due to all the tasty additions. These growing portion sizes are changing what Americans think of as a “normal” portion at home, too. We call it portion distortion.
What is the difference between a portion and a serving?
A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small—you decide.
A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or one cup (eight ounces) of milk.
The problem is that the portions we choose or those served to us are typically not standard servings. Many foods that come as single portions actually contain multiple servings. For example, look at the label of a 20-ounce soda (typically consumed as one portion), and you’ll see that it has 2.5 servings in it. A 3-ounce bag of chips—which some would consider a single portion—contains 3 servings. The Nutrition Facts label found on packaged foods, on the backs of cans, and sides of boxes, can help guide your understanding of the “appropriate” amount of a particular food.
Simple tips to help you watch your portion sizes:
- If you choose a food from a larger container or bag, serve yourself one portion and put the rest away
- Put food on a smaller plate; it won’t look so skimpy.
- Share a portion with a family member or friend.
- Order a medium pizza instead of a large. Everyone gets the same number of slices as before; they’re just smaller.
- Before you eat your meal ask the wait staff to put half of the meal in a take home bag for leftovers to eat the next day.
- Select single-serve portions for snacks and desserts. Always use the food label to be sure you are accurately selecting your portion.
- At home, use a kitchen scale to measure your food portions and take the guesswork out of it.
- Learn to approximate portions to help when eating out. Check out the NHLBI Serving Size Card for recommended serving sizes.
For those of you who have specific nutrition related questions, feel free to contact me at AskMarshDietitian@marsh.net.
|___||Mary Snell, MS RD CD
Director of Nutrition and Wellness