Portion Control for a Healthy Diet

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portion control

If your diet consists mostly of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, and lean protein, good job! Just remember that too much of a good thing is not good. Why sabotage your efforts? Portion control is easy once it becomes a habit.

Does Art Imitate Life - Even on the Portion Control Plate?

A somewhat amusing article in The News-Times, entitled “Last Supper Growing,” demonstrates the point about the trend towards increased portion sizes. According to the article, a medical journal reported research on food in famous paintings; regarding renditions of “The Last Supper,” it was stated: “Using a computer, they compared the size of the food to the size of the heads in 52 paintings of Jesus Christ and his disciples at their final meal before his death…the size of the main dish grew 69 percent; the size of the plate, 66 percent, and the bread, 23 percent, between the years 1000 and 2000.”

How Much Should You Eat?

The USDA food pyramid website has a great interactive tool called “Portion Distortion.” Click on The Food Pyramid and follow the right column down to “Portion Distortion.” Here you can test your visual savvy on portion size perception and learn the amount of activity needed to burn off those extra calories. It’s an eye-opener for those who may not have noticed the increase in portion sizes in restaurants over the years, especially at fast food establishments!

The USDA Dietary Guidelines explains that “a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat” whereas “a serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat”. For example, one slice of bread is considered one serving in the grains category. The recommended daily portion will vary with your age, activity level, and special dietary needs and restrictions.

Consider that the 2005 Food Pyramid suggests six ounces of grains (six servings) as the appropriate daily portion, in this food category, for an average adult on a 2000 daily calorie diet. However, the daily portion for an active teenage boy may be 11 servings per day. Something to think about that before you eat off your child’s plate.

How to Control Portions – Weights and Measures

“Just a little,” “small,” and “just a taste” are very subjective terms, relative to each individual’s dietary habits and selective perception. If you really want to know how much you are eating, and want to exercise portion control, size it up!

For eating at home, purchase an inexpensive food scale and extra set of measuring spoons and cups. Keep these portion control tools accessible in the kitchen and use them before your food goes on your plate. If family style eating is the norm in your household, prepare your plate before you sit down, with a glass of water or unsweetened tea. When you get tempted to take a second serving, drink your beverage instead.

When eating out, visualize a deck of cards for your serving of meat, fish, or poultry (about three ounces); four stacked dice for cubes of cheese (about one ounce); tennis ball for a scoop of ice cream (about half a cup), and nuts which fill up no more than your palm (about one ounce).

At the supermarket or deli, read ingredient labels carefully. That bag of chips may seem like a reasonable choice for less than 100 calories but, when the bag holds two or more servings and you consume the whole bag, your total portion just multiplied.

A Healthy Diet Includes Food Portion Control

If your portion control habits fail, try another habit most of us are very good at – procrastination. Wait 20 minutes and get busy with something else before you have the next serving or dessert – you may just find the desire slips away!

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