American’s have been lied to for many years. Eating out at a restaurant is one of our guilty pleasures, we drink, we laugh, and we spend too much money on food we could have made at home. However, there’s another downside we might be missing, portion size. The sizes of a plate of food at a restaurant, a sandwich at a deli, or a pastry at the corner coffee shop have all been exaggerated. This is one of the main reasons that Americans have such a high obesity rate, so much so that it’s now a recognized disability. Weight loss, exercise plans, and fad diets are the main topic of conversation on any health blog, but now it’s time to cut to the chase and look at this from the very beginning, meal size.
It is a super-sized world out there, and while some documentaries have tried disproving that, they are still unable to deny that a “single serving” in the fast food industry is actually two or three servings. Learning food portion control for weight loss can be difficult to work into your habitual needs, but a few small changes in the way you eat can reprogram your body to recognize a real single serving. Counting calories is exhausting, and it’s impossible to measure everything that you eat. However, it is a good idea to start measuring what you eat and drink until you can visually recognize the right size portions.
Here are a few visual references that can be used to decide if you are eating the right portion sizes:
A rounded handful is 1/2 cup of cooked pasta or rice or 1/2 cup fruit or vegetables, or a snack serving of, say, pretzels. So if you have small hands you might feel like you are getting the short end of the stick, when really you were eating too much to begin with. For dried fruits or grains, try visualizing a golf ball-sized serving. Ounces always seemed tricky to me, but a match box is about 1 ounce and a deck of cards or the palm of your hand is around 3 ounces. Visualize your baked potato as a computer mouse and your pancakes as a CD.
Now that we know what the portions should be, you need to figure out which of these portions should end up on your plate. In general you should have a good ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat. This combination gives you all the fuel you need to keep a good energy level for muscle repair and nutrients to keep you full. Protein sources should be things like chicken, beef, shrimp and eggs, which are all lean proteins. A nutritious carbohydrate, yes they exist, are beans, lentils, peas, starchy vegetables and whole grains. Vegetables are a good source of fiber and should take up a good portion of your plate. Healthy fats should be paired with your proteins or carbohydrates, but in moderation. For instance, avocado on your chicken or a side salad with a drizzle of olive oil are both sensible “fatty” options.