One factor in the growing obesity epidemic is the supersizing of American meal portions. Larger portions mean additional, but unnecessary calories. You’ll probably be surprised to discover how small a healthy meal portion is. According to the Journal of Public Health Policy fast food meal portions are now two to five times larger than the original portions. Two slices of pizza now contain 850 calories compared to 500 calories 20 years ago. Movie popcorn has gone from 270 calories 20 years ago to 630 calories today.
For restaurants the cost of food is far less than the cost of labor and employee benefits – a major reason they lure and compete for customers by providing larger meal portions. Most restaurants now provide meal portions that are large enough to feed two people.
Healthy Portion Sizes
To better appreciate portion sizes it’s helpful to make comparisons to other objects. To me a serving of pasta has always been a plate full of pasta well saturated in sauce. Turns out that a healthy portion of pasta is merely the size of a fist or tennis ball.
1 cup = a baseball
1/2 cup = a lightbulb
1 ounce or 2 tablespoons = a golf ball or ping pong ball
1 slice of bread = cassette tape (some of you may not know what this is anymore)
1 ounce of meat = a matchbox
3 ounces of meat = a deck of playing cards
8 ounces of meat = thin paperback book
3 ounces of fish = a checkbook
1 ounce of lunch meat = a CD
1 ounce of cheese = 4 dice
1 tablespoon = a poker chip
Healthy Food Portions
average bagel = hockey puck
medium potato = a computer mouse
serving of pasta = a fist or tennis ball (not a 9 1/2 inch plate full)
1 piece of chocolate = dental floss package
1 pancake = one CD
1/4 cup of almonds = 23 almonds
1 slice of cake = deck of cards
Did you notice how having a gaming background can be good for your health? Poker chips, dice, deck of cards – something I can relate to.
Tips for Portion Control
To help you control how much eat try the following.
Divide the typical 9 1/2 inch dinner plate into quarters. Fill 2 quarters (or one half plate for those of you advanced in math) with vegetables (preferably a mixture of two or more vegetables). Put your meat on another quarter of the plate. Most “experts” say use the last quarter for starches like potatoes or corn, but I think that is debatable. If you need to lose weight I recommend staying away from starchy carbs until you get to your target weight and recommend the last quarter plate remain empty or add a little more meat to it as many do not get enough protein. Also, eat two thumb tips of a healthy fats like olive oil with a meal.
It can be helpful to measure how much you actually eat for several days to get a better idea how much you may be overeating.
Drink a glass of water before each meal. Eat your salad first. Both of these will help you feel full before digging in for the main part of the meal. When dining out consider boxing half your meal in a doggy bag before you even begin eating since restaurant portions frequently feed two.
Use these tips to get a better grip on portion size and control and get to that optimal weight.