Portion-Size Me

pastaIt seems as if many people in the United States have lost self-control. With an immense deficit and gas-guzzling tanks roaming every street, it is no wonder that we also have a problem sizing the portions of food that we eat. And I’m no exception—I often eat long after I’m full, simply for the taste. This is why I am looking to make a concrete lifestyle change and not simply follow a trendy diet or place immense restrictions on myself for a week or two.

The very few times that I have tried to cut certain elements out of my diet, such as chocolate or bread, I have always just ended up eating a copious amount of them later. It’s as if I have to make up for lost time. It is probably the ultimate cliché, but when I deny myself something, I want it more than ever. But, this isn’t necessarily bad news. Many contemporary studies and observations suggest that it’s actually OK to eat most foods known to be not so healthy, as long as it’s in careful moderation.

This may seem difficult, especially when eating out. “The USDA guidelines set the serving size for cooked pasta at half of a cup,” explains Seton Northwest clinical dietitian Janessa Slatky, RD, LD, adding that, “a typical restaurant portion of pasta is about three cups. It’s no wonder there’s so much confusion about what a serving should be. There is little consistency between food labels, government recommendations, and restaurant servings.” She says the bottom line is that it’s up to the individual to manage his or her portion sizes.

Here are a few simple guidelines for doing this, based on recommendations from Goodhealth.com:

•    Each individual is different, so it’s important that you know how much food you should be eating in general, which is based on distinct characteristics such as height, weight, age, sex and physical activity.

•    Remember that Nutrition Facts Labels may have more than one serving size. For example, many people don’t know that a pack of Ramen Noodles actually contains two servings. This means the cup actually has double the calories of what’s on the label.

•    Soda is empty calories. Drink water instead.

•    Entrees in restaurants are often large enough to share between two or three people. If you plan on not eating your entire entrée, or if you want to free yourself of temptation to eat the entire entrée in the first place, you may also consider ordering a half-sized portion.

•    Educate yourself on serving sizes. Measure food at home to see what a serving size looks like on a plate—you may be surprised.

•    Don’t eat straight out of the bag. It’s the quickest way to lose perspective and mindlessly put back food. You may not want to stop until the bag is empty, whereas if you put the food in a bowl, you are likely to eat less.


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