Weight Loss

Weight Loss: Controlling Portion Size for a Healthy Weight

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Portions sizes have increased significantly over the last 20 years. Large portions at a low price are driving consumers waistlines up and their health down.

Restaurant meals, prepackaged and snack foods, beverages, even plates, bowls and household glasses are bigger than they ever used to be. Often it is only pennies more to purchase the "value" meal or the larger size drink. What seems like a good value to the wallet is not always a good value for your health. People are eating more food today than they ever did before and waistlines are proof positive of this. Seeing large and eating large leads to portion distortion and eating more calories than is necessary.

Portion Sizes vs. Serving Sizes

A serving size should equal a portion size right? Unfortunately in most households it does not. Many Americans have "portion distortion," where they do not know proper serving sizes and therefore are consuming larger portions and more calories than they actually need on a daily basis.

A “portion” is how much food you choose to eat at one time. This can be in a restaurant, from a package, or in the kitchen. A “serving” size is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label and is a standardized unit of food. A serving size allows the consumer to compare similar foods' nutritional value easily by looking at the food label because it breaks it down into calories, fat, sugar, salt, fiber, etc. from that specific quantity of food. What the serving size is not telling you is how much you should be eating. A bagel, for example, has become larger over time and now constitutes two servings of carbohydrates or more in one portion, but consumers think they have eaten just one serving. That is why people need to pay attention to portion size, know their serving sizes and follow the Dietary Guidelines.

Sometimes, the portion size and serving size match; sometimes they do not. The serving size on the label may not be what you actually eat, nor need to eat. The serving size may be a lot less than you are used to eating which might even be okay. For example, according to the nutrition label a serving of frozen vegetable is one cup. Is it fine to eat a larger portion than one serving of vegetables? Absolutely! They are low in calories and high in nutrition. Conversely, the portion size that you are used to eating may be equal to two or three standard servings. Sometimes when foods are high in calories fat and sugar, the nutrition label can tell you how much of the product is not healthy. For example, consuming a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda when the serving size is eight ounces provides two and a half times the calories and two and a half times the sugar in that "portion," which is not healthy for you.

Portion Sizes Affect How Much People Eat

There are many reasons people eat and choose the foods they do besides for the obvious reason, satisfying hunger with the nutritional energy to sustain daily life. They include:

- provide energy
- hunger
- social
- emotional
- boredom
- cravings
- eating with our eyes
- convenience
- cost
- personality
- sensory attractiveness

According to the CDC, studies by Rolls et al, show that when people are given larger amounts of food they consume larger portions. This has also been observed in young children by Fisher et al. Furthermore, these studies indicate that people do not notice the portion size differences and will not compensate during later meals by eating less food.

Avoid Portion Distortion

Bring portion sizes back to reality and learn to eat a normal serving size by using measuring cups and spoons. This is not something that needs to be done for life but until you know what a standard serving is. Start by putting the suggested serving size on your plate before eating. This will help you see what one standard serving of that food looks like compared to how much you normally eat.

It may also help to compare serving sizes to everyday objects so it can be easily remembered. A single serving of:

- vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist or a baseball (one cup)
- pasta and rice is about the size of a scoop of ice cream or a light bulb (half a cup)
- meat, fish or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards (three ounces)
- snacks such as pretzels is about the size of a fist (one cup)
- one pancake is about the size of one compact disc
- one slice of bread is about the size of a cassette tape
- one bagel is about the size of a can of tuna
- peanut butter is about the size of a ping pong ball (two tablespoons)
- medium fruit is about the size of a baseball
- low-fat cheese is about the size of two stacked dice (one and a half ounces)
- a salad is about the size of your fist (one cup)

People trying to control weight will have difficulty if they are not aware of their portions and serving sizes. Therefore eat only as many servings as you need per day by following the Dietary Guidelines. A food diary can help with this immensely. It is a tool to track servings of all the food that is eaten during the day, when and why.

Other useful tips to help control food portion intake is to;

- Split a meal when dining out.
- Avoid mindless snacking in front of the television by using a bowl or container instead of eating straight from the bag or box.
- Remove the candy bowl and replace it with a fruit bowl.
- When eating in serve up your meal before sitting at the table to avoid second helpings.

Weight gain will never be managed unless you realize how much you are eating and eat only as much food as you expend in energy. Even the most valiant efforts to lose weight will be sabotaged by eating too much either by large portions or too many servings which both can raise caloric consumption.
Tags: weight loss
Health and Wellness