One of the biggest problems with diet in the U.S. is that over the years our portion sizes continue to get bigger and bigger. As far back as the 1980’s portion sizes have started to increase substantially. Our perception of portion sizes has become quite distorted over the years and much of the problems with weight gain that Americans are experiencing today are directly related to eating way too large of portions resulting in an increase in calories, fat, and sugar. Many foods in the Western diet are laden with sugar and simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugar levels. Overeating results in many diet related illnesses on the U.S. and recent research is indicating more and more that even Alzheimer’s symptoms may be worsened from poor diet.
One example of just how out of control our portions have become in the U.S. is the popular bagel. Did you know that today the bagel is twice the size and double the calories of the bagels of twenty years ago? Eating one bagel for breakfast today is the equivalent of 360 calories and 3 servings of grains.
So just what constitutes a “normal” portion of food? According to the American Heart Association, a heart healthy diet includes the following:
One serving of grains
A slice of bread
1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or cooked cereal
1 ounce ready to eat cereal
One serving of meat or protein
½ cup cooked beans or legumes
2 to 3 ounces of lean meat such as chickens or fish
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (about the size of a small fist)
1/2 cup of vegetable juice or cooked vegetables
1 medium fruit (medium is defined as the size of a baseball); 1/2 cup chopped, cooked or canned fruit; or 1/2 cup juice.
Milk and Dairy
1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt
1 1/2 ounces fat-free or low-fat cheese
As you can see, our perception of a normal sized portion of food is very distorted, particularly when we order at a restaurant.
Here are some tips to help get portions under control:
Serve food on smaller plates
When cooking large batches of food, divide portions before serving and store extra food for future meals
Don’t serve food in large containers at the table
Avoid eating snacks out of the bag
Add more fruits, salads and vegetables to your daily meals
Try eating single portion servings until you get used to eating smaller portions
Don’t skip meals, plan to eat 3 small meals and 1 to 2 snacks per day
Don’t go for the “value meals” when eating out-divide food before eating and plan to take about 50% home to eat the following day
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