The next time you’re having a meal, especially in a restaurant, take a look at the portion sizes. Can your meal fit in the palm of your hand or is it hanging off the plate? And speaking of the plate, can you see any of it?
If you’re like most Americans, you suffer from “portion distortion.” Over the past two decades, our nation’s meals have expanded and so have our waistlines. People may be counting calories, carbohydrates or fat grams but they’re not measuring portions.
How big is big?
Nutritionists compared the standard portion serving sizes, those commonly found in stores and restaurants, with serving sizes recommended by MyPlate. Here’s what they found:
Cookies — seven times the recommended serving size.
Cooked pasta — five times the recommended serving size.
Muffins — three times the recommended serving size.
Portions vs. serving size
To better track the amount of food you eat, it’s important to know the difference between portions and serving size. A portion is your preference: the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size. A toddler’s portion will be much smaller than a teen’s portion.
A serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat. Servings don’t measure calories; they identify an amount. For example, when you make a sandwich, your portion likely includes two pieces of bread. The serving size for bread, as listed on the Pyramid, is one slice. What does this mean? That your portion equals two servings from the Pyramid.
Here’s an example to illustrate serving size: You have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. A serving of the cereal is listed as one-half of a cup. Even though you had one BOWL or one portion of cereal, it was probably 1 cup which would be two servings.
Smartsizing your portions
Instead of “supersizing”, try “smartsizing” your portions. These tips will help you track your portions sizes.
— Measure your food with measuring cups and spoons for one week.
— Keep a food diary for that week.
— Compare your typical servings with MyPlate servings.
— For hard-to-measure foods, count out the number of pieces in one serving.
— Sodas are liquid sugar sources. Choose water instead of sodas.
— Switch to fat-free milk or 100 percent juice for a beverage with vitamins and minerals.
— Avoid upsizing your meals at fast food restaurants.
— If you eat a large portion, eat less at the next meal.
— Eat only half the entree. Order a half-order, or take half home.
— Go easy on the desserts.
— Buy smaller packages of snack foods.
— Don’t eat out of the bag or carton. It’s too easy to overeat.
For more information on portion sizes and recommended amounts, go to: MyPlate.gov
Vegetable chicken Stir-Fry
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
dash ground ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 cup each sliced carrots and cauliflowerets
1 cup fresh or frozen snow peas
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
In a bowl, combine cornstarch, broth and soy sauce until smooth. Set aside. In a large nonstick skillet or wok, stir-fry the chicken, garlic and ginger in hot oil for 4-5 minutes or until chicken is not longer pink. Remove and keep warm.
In skillet, stir-fry broccoli, carrots and cauliflower in the remaining oil for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add snow peas. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir broth mixture. Add to pan. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add chicken. Heat through. Top with sesame seeds. Yield: 4 servings.
Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-862-4591.