During the past 20 years, obesity among U.S. adults has risen significantly. According to the American Heart Association, about 35% of adult Americans are considered obese. It is estimated that another 30-35% of adult Americans are overweight. That means that nearly 70% of the population falls in a health danger zone. Obesity can lead to problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems.
A large part of the problem is that our perception of portion sizes has changed. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides a portion distortion quiz, found here, that shows you how portion sizes today differ from those 20 years ago. Some striking examples are spaghetti and meatballs, french fries, and soda. Here is how they differ:
As you can see, the amount considered a serving has more than doubled in many cases. Larger portions means more calories and fat per serving. With larger portions being the new norm, how do we ensure we are eating the right amount? A good place to start is with MyPlate’s Daily Checklist. The one below is based on the average 2000 calorie diet. Your calorie needs may differ. You can find out more by clicking here.
By following the recommendations from MyPlate, you can feel confident that you are eating the right amount of the right kinds of foods.
Here are a few other tips you can follow to protect yourself from portion distortion:
- Track your food. If you don’t write it down, you may be over or under estimating how much you are eating from certain food groups.
- Use a smaller plate. If you use a large plate, you are likely to fill it right up and eat what is on the plate. If you use a smaller plate, there will be less food in front of you. You may find that you are satisfied with the smaller amount of food.
- Be smart when eating out. Opt to skip the appetizer and share your entree. Most times, an entree is large enough to split between two people. You can also ask for a box right when your food is served. Box up half of it to save for later.
- Avoid eating straight from the package. You are likely to eat more of a food item if you are eating it straight from the package. Try portioning out a small amount of the item into a food dish. Eat and enjoy, but avoid overeating.
- Drink plenty of water. Keeping your body hydrated will help you avoid filling up your belly with food when what it could really use is H2O.
- Bulk up your meals with veggies. Veggies will fill you up fast without a lot of calories.
- Eat slow. If you eat too fast you may miss your body’s cues telling you that it is satisfied. Slow down and enjoy each bite rather than rushing through meals.
- Turn off distractions. Focusing attention on things like cell phones, computers, and T.V.s will distract you from what you are eating. The distraction can cause you to eat larger portions. Instead, focus on your meal, how it smells, tastes, and feels.
- Use smart sweets. If you have a sweet tooth after most meals, try sipping on a cup of decaf tea or enjoying a piece of fruit rather than candy or a high calorie dessert.
- Don’t skip meals. In fact, consider snacking between meals. If you go too long without eating, you are likely to overeat at your next meal.
Make a goal today to be more aware of portion sizes. With a little practice, you’ll soon be a portion pro! Practice with this Veggie, Chicken, & Pasta Bowl recipe. With lean protein, whole grain pasta, and plenty of veggies, it makes a great MyPlate meal. Enjoy!
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