If you are like most Americans, you probably do. Americans have the highest per capita daily consumption in the world, consuming over 3,770 calories a day. One of the main reasons for this extreme calorie intake is due to the increase in portion size. The “bigger is better” motto has taken over the food industry. We are encouraged to buy bigger sizes in order to save money.
Portion size has contributed to the fact that nearly ¾ of all Americans are overweight or obese. This puts us at High Risk for a whole host of diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
If you are struggling with your weight, focusing your attention on portion size is an easy way to cut back on calories. There’s no weighing or counting. Eating only single servings or using a smaller plate will automatically reduce your food intake.
If you don’t have a weight problem but have less energy than you would like, a thorough examination of your portion size is always a good idea. Eating large portion sizes requires the body to expend a lot of energy to digest food especially processed foods. That’s energy that could be used for other things you enjoy.
Over the last few decades, portion sizes in America have subtly and steadily increased. They are now two to five times larger than they were in the past.
Pizza pies were 10 inches in diameter back in the 70’s. Today the size of a pizza is 16 to 18 inches. All of the most popular burger restaurants have increased the size of their hamburgers. The original burger weighed in at 3.9 ounces and today a double is 12.6 ounces. That’s three times more meat.
A Hershey chocolate bar weighed approximately 0.6 ounces its first year on the market. The standard bar now weighs just over 1.5 ounces. That’s almost 3 times its original weight.
Bagels and muffins are often sold in sizes that constitute at least 2 servings. Most people eat the whole thing, thinking that they have eaten 1 serving not realizing they selected a large portion size equivalent to two servings.
Use visual cues to estimate portion size.
You may think that counting calories, fat grams, or even eliminating entire food groups such as carbs or fats is the way to keep from getting overweight. The problem is you don’t know how many calories, fats and carbs are in your favorite foods. No one does, not even the experts. When nutritionists were shown several restaurant meals in a survey, not one person was able to accurately guess the calorie or fat content of the meals.
Most people use their eyes to count calories instead of their stomachs. Because of this, visual cues can play an important role in the prevention of unintentional overeating. I find that using common objects as visual cues for your meal size is a guaranteed way to eat the right amount to lose or maintain weight.
Portion control for vegetables is rarely a problem because most people don’t eat enough. But be aware of how the vegetable is prepared. Try to eliminate rich toppings like butter and cheeses.
Grains should equal the size and volume of a tennis ball. Fresh fruit should also equal the size and volume of a tennis ball. But beware of dried fruit. When fruits are dried the fruit shrinks about ¾ of its original size. For example one cup of grapes is the equivalent of ¼ cup of raisins. This makes it easy to be fooled into eating too much. A dried fruit serving should be the size and volume of a golf ball.
Protein is an important nutrient but many Americans eat more meat protein than they need. A serving of meat, fish or chicken should be the size and volume of a deck of cards. To keep your portions and your waistline in check you may need to cut a typical piece in half.
Healthy fats like peanut butter should be the size and volume of a shot glass. Before you spread it, eyeball it to be sure you are eating the right portion. A typical slice of pizza with cheese contains two servings of cheese which is equal to 2/3 of your daily dairy intake. Now think about how many slices of pizza you typically eat at a meal. If you are eating hard cheese, your portion size should be 1 ½ oz. which is the equivalent of the size of three dice. Hopefully now you have a good idea of how much you should eat.
We only have one life to live, but if we do it right, that’s all we need!