healthy eating Oct 14, 2020

How much you eat matters as much as what you eat.  For those who snack, partake in office shared food, or stop for coffee/soda during the day along with consuming regular meals might be surprised how much food they’ve had in one day.  In this world of super-sized fast food and enormous quantities served at restaurants, it’s no wonder Americans are the most obese society.  I don’t blame people for not knowing what a healthy serving size is.  It’s not talked about or demonstrated by most restaurants.  Restaurants get reviews toting “lots of food” or “big portions” as if it’s a good thing to grossly over-deliver portion amounts to the table.  Unless you’re sharing that meal, it’s most likely enough for 2-3 meals.

Young and old, obesity has infiltrated our lives in one way or another; affecting us personally or a loved one. And it isn’t just about the numbers popping up on the scale. Obesity increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and many other types of chronic illnesses.

Serving vs. Portion

Let’s start by differentiating between serving size and portion. 

A serving (or serving size) is what can be found on a food product’s label, or Nutrition Facts, on the side of the package. It’s a suggestion of how much you should eat of that particular food product. Each product has different serving sizes and uses various measurements, such as cups, grams, ounces, slices, or pieces. There’s also a servings per container on the label which gives you an idea of how many servings are there in the entire package.  Always check servings per container.  Especially when grabbing snacks at convenience stores.  Holy Moly, will you be surprised what you find.

A portion is the amount of food you eat per meal. It could be directly from the box, or how much food is on your plate at home or at a restaurant. More often than not, the portion of food you decide to consume won’t match the serving size provided for you on the food label.  In other words, we eat more than we should. 

How much?

Knowing what to eat is easy. We all know what’s good for you and what’s not; what we should eat 80% of the time and what we can indulge in 20% of the time without feeling any guilt. The problem now, however, has become not what to eat, but how much should I eat? Even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation.

How much food we can consume at each meal is different from one person to the next based on age, gender, weight, metabolism and how active that person is. If you work out regularly, you’ll need more calories than someone who leads a more sedentary lifestyle. Or if you’re in your twenties, your metabolism will be working faster than someone in their fifties, which means you can eat larger portions without worrying all that much.

Here are a few tips to help you quickly figure out your portion sizes both at home or on the go:

  • Use smaller dishes.  Get rid of the super-sized plates and bowls in your cupboards.  When you fill a smaller plate with food your brain still sees a full plate and you won’t even notice you’re eating less.  It may sound simple but we have usually had enough to eat long before the large plate of food is finished.
  • Use your plate as a measuring tool. For example, if you’re eating salad, that should take up ½ your plate. Protein and complex carbs should take about a quarter of your plate. And if you’re eating foods high in fats, fill less than a ¼ of space on the plate.
  • Use your hands to gauge portion size. It’s not an exact science, but the size of your hands usually corresponds to the size of your body. So, protein should be roughly the size of 1 palm for women and 2 palms for men; vegetables should be a large fistful for women and 2 fistfuls for men; foods rich in carbs, 1 palm full; high-fat foods should be about the size of a thumb for women and 2 thumbs for men.
  • Avoid eating straight from the container. Measure out the serving size in a bowl instead.
  • Start each meal with a glass of water.
  • Avoid distracted eating.  Eating while standing up, talking on the phone, watching TV or driving all take your attention off how much you're eating and you miss the first signs of satiety.  
  • Eat Mindfully.  Always focus on how your food looks, smells, tastes as you purposefully chew each bite. Practicing mindfulness will help you re-evaluate your relationship with food. It will also feel full quicker, and most importantly, satiated and content.

The bottom line is that it’s important to have a healthy relationship with food. Just like in any relationship, neither side should have the upper hand. There should be a sense of balance and respect without that negative hold that food can sometimes have on you.  

Until next time

Be fit, Be strong, practice smaller portions

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