Exploring portion distortion

Is your plate going to your waist? Extra weight and obesity have been linked to many illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. The old saying is obvious, “We are what we eat.”

Larger portions of food, limited food variety, and too little exercise have created a society where obesity is rampant in both children and adults.

“Portion distortion” articles in newspapers and magazines refer to the American habit of overeating. The Food Guide Pyramid (a guide to good eating) states we are to have six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta a day. Are you aware that a serving of cooked pasta is half a cup, not the two to three cups we usually eat? Are you aware that a serving of bagel is half of a 3-inch diameter bagel (1 ounce), or one-half of a bun is a serving of a hamburger bun?

According to the Food Guide Pyramid, we are to have approximately 5-6 ounces of protein foods each day, but many people have that much in one meal! (A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards.)

The American diet has become “super sized” where more food is cheaper, thus we buy it. Fast food meals of today can easily provide 1,600 to 1,800 calories per meal—much more then the 600 calorie meals of the past. The Food Guide Pyramid states we are to have three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day, yet most Americans do not “super size” these foods.

How can you determine what a portion is? Read the label to check portion size. How many servings (portions) does the product provide? How big is the serving size? Your hand may help you estimate portion size. Your clenched fist is about the size of one cup. Your palm is the size of a 3-ounce portion of meat, and your thumb is approximately the size of 1 ounce of cheese.

To improve your food habits, consider these following tips:

Eat a variety of foods each day—in a rainbow of colors;

Eat foods in moderation;

Exercise daily;

Drink at least 8 cups of water each day;

Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet;

Choose whole grain breads and cereals;

Eat less fat and less fried foods;

Eat at least three meals a day; and

Watch your portion sizes.

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