For Better Living: How Much Are You Really Eating?

By: Sandra Cain - Bladne County Cooperative Extension

The next time you’re having a meal, especially in a restaurant, take a look at the portion sizes. Can your meat 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 portion sizes. Research shows that large portion sizes lead to overeating.

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 as much as 7 times the recommended serving size.

— Cooked pasta nearly 5 times the recommended serving size.

— Muffins weighing in at over 3 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 sizes.

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. But the serving size for bread on MyPlate is one slice. That means that your portion equals two servings.

Here’s an example to illustrate serving size: You have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. A serving of the cereal you choose is listed as one-half of a cup. Even though you only had one BOWL or one portion of cereal it was 1 cup or two servings.

Smartsizing your portions

Instead of “supersizing,” try “smartsizing” your portions. These tips will help you track your portion sizes and keep them in check.

Do your homework.

— 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 (snacks, French fries) count out the number of pieces in one serving.

Limit liquid calories

— The serving size for sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and smoothies fits in a (small) coffee cup.

— Sodas are liquid sugar sources that don’t fill us up. Choose water instead or opt for a kid-sized soda.

— Switch to fat free milk or 100% juice for a beverage with vitamins and minerals.

— Make water your beverage of choice. Add slices of lemon, lime or orange, or a splash of fruit juice.

Away from home

— Avoid super-sizing meals at fast food restaurants.

— Eat only half the entree: share an order, order a half portion or take half of the order home. *Don’t order an entree: have a salad and an appetizer as your meal.

— Go easy on the desserts. Take just five bites. Share a dessert or take some home for later.

At home

—Use smaller plates and bowls at home.

— Buy smaller packages of snack foods.

— “Batch cook” and divide prepared recipes into the number of servings specified before eating.

— Save leftovers or freeze.

Other helpful hints

—Make it satisfying. Truly enjoy your food; don’t eat while doing something else.

— Eat slower.

— Be honest with yourself.

— If you eat a large portion size, eat less at the next meal.

— Never eat of out of the carton or bag…Always use a bowl or plate.

—Trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough, but remember it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send a message to your brain that you’re full.

Source: N.C. Cooperative Extension

Almond Chicken Stir Fry

1 pound chicken tenderloin strips

¾ cup sliced almonds

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetables

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, stir-fry chicken and almonds in oil for 2 minutes. Add vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, brown sugar and ginger. Stir in pineapple juice and soy sauce until smooth. Stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with rice if desired. Yield: 5 servings.

Sandra Cain can be reached by calling 910-862-4591.

Sandra Cain

Bladne County Cooperative Extension