Diet Camouflage With Large Size Servings

                                                            By Judith Wakefield 

Many of us are concerned about the fact that we have gained weight.  We may have felt like we were eating healthy diets but the weight came right back anyway.  The culprit very well could be the size of the servings we are eating.  Restaurants want to keep our business so have steadily offered larger and larger portions.  Offering “Super Size” portions for a few pennies more hasn’t helped either.  We don’t have to eat it all, eat until you are full and take home the rest (if you can get it into a refrigerator within an hour).

Larger portions may be appropriate for people who are regularly active or get a lot of exercise each day.  But for those of us who have sedentary jobs and drive instead of walk, a gradual reduction in portion size – and increase in exercise – may help us to achieve a healthy weight, says Dr. Riva Butrum, Vice President or Research at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Serving sizes and number of servings per day as recommended in the Food Pyramid are based on the needs of most people.  The U. S. Department of Agriculture has crunched the numbers to determine how many standard servings of 100 different foods Americans eat at one sitting .  The study shows that the typical American tends to eat 2.5 standard servings of potatoes (baked or French fries), almost 4 standard servings of pasta and 2 standard servings of bread and rice at one meal.  This is according to an article in the American Institute of Cancer Research NEWSLETTER. It’s no wonder people have so much trouble with their weight!

A one-cup size serving of pasta is about the size of a fist or a tennis ball. We may eat a larger serving than one cup but that doesn’t have to be bad.  The recommended number of servings of grain-based foods recommended is 6 to 11 servings per day.  The people who would need eleven servings are athletes and others who burn a lot of calories.  Those who six servings are appropriate are those who are more sedentary.  We all fit in there somewhere.  According to the food pyramid a standard size serving of pasta or rice is one half cup but our serving we get may be three, four or more servings at one meal.  This uses up several of the recommended servings for one meal.  That doesn’t have to be bad, we just need to hold back on grain foods at our other meals and snacks so we’re not getting over the recommended amount for the whole day.  A standard serving of breads, cereals, rice and pasta is one slice of bread, one half a hamburger bun, muffin or English muffin, an ounce of ready-to-eat cereal or one half cup of cooked cereal. 

A small baked potato is the size of a fist or a computer mouse – most potatoes we see in grocery stores are bigger than this.  Does this mean we shouldn’t eat them?  Of course not! We just count them are more than one serving of vegetable, there are a lot of nutrients in potatoes, especially if you eat the skin.  It is recommended that we try to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (combined) a day.  They provide nutrients, color and a variety of textures and flavor to our diets.  The standard serving size for fruit and vegetables is one half cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables, a medium sized piece of fruit ( about the size of a tennis ball), three fourths cup of juice, one half cup of canned fruit or one fourth cup of dried fruit.  For most vegetables and fruits, the more we can have, the better.  Of course, the high calories ones (that include fattening ingredients) require some restraint. 

A serving from the dairy group is a cup of milk or yogurt or one and a half to two ounces of cheese.  Measure how much the glasses you usually use actually hold. A glass may hold one and a half, two or even two and a half cups of liquid.  We do need dairy foods each day to provide the Calcium we need for our bones and teeth.  Low and no fat versions are available and are good choices.

Some people think they need a lot of meat, but for most people two servings of meat (a total of five to six ounces) is adequate.  Active teen boys may need three servings for a total of seven ounces.  Two to three ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish is a serving. This is about the size of a regular size deck of cards.  One half cup of cooked beans, one egg, or two tablespoons of peanut butter can substitute for one ounce of lean meat. 

What can we do?  When we eat out we can request a take-home box at the beginning of the meal and divide your food in half before you start eating.  That way you are not as tempted to keep picking at it and have enough for another meal to take home. 

Consider ordering a salad and an appetizer instead of an entrée.  This will cut down on portion size and there are a lot of great meat appetizers. 

Split a large salad and one entrée between two people.

Ask if smaller size portions are available.  Some restaurants offer lunch and dinner size portions and you can order the smaller lunch size portion at dinnertime.  Often the early bird specials are slightly smaller portions than the regular menu items. 

If ordering a la carte, order one baked potato and share it with someone else.  They are often quite large.

Order one dessert to share among three or four people so each have a few bites of something sweet with a cup of coffee or tea.  You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and won’t feel deprived.

Resign from the “clean your plate club”

Ask that dressing for your salad be served “on the side” so you can add only as much as you want.  One trick is to not put the dressing on the salad then dip your fork into the dressing before you spear the salad ingredients.  You will get the flavor of the dressing without overdoing it.

Focus on enjoying the company and the occasion – not just the food – this can help make excessive eating less likely to occur.  For more information on portion sizes contact the County Extension Service – 770-5030.