Portion Size Distortion


Portion sizes are one of the biggest contributors to the rapidly increasing average waistline sizes of Americans.  Did you know that in the 1970’s, 47% of people were obese or overweight?  Did you know that since then that rate has reached 66%?  (Divine Caroline 2013) Sadly, it’s become the norm to be overweight.

How many of you take your leftovers home from dining out?  How many of you eat what you can and just leave the rest?  Those with the latter choice, not only are you spending $8-$20 per meal but you’re leaving half of it!  So you’ve just wasted a whole other meal’s worth of hard-earned cash.  That’s not fair, and it’s not your fault.  Portion size in the US has grown tremendous in size over the years.  The best example of this is Italian pasta dishes.  Going to places like Maggiano’s you’re sure to be delivered 3-4 servings on one plate.  Well, no wonder America’s obese rates are skyrocketing!

This over portioned problem also infiltrates our homes when we attempt to prepare meals for ourselves and families. We have developed such warped views on what a portion size should look like that when we do see one it looks small and un-fulfilling. Did you know a serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards?  Sure 2 servings is fine if you’re just pairing it with vegetables but we’re not.  We’re adding condiments, bread, pasta or potatoes with butter and sour cream.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

What it comes down to, is it’s not all attributed to a lack of nutrition education.  The nutritional information is on the packaging, explanations for what the ingredients and amounts represent are getting easier to understand, and ultimately we do have a choice on how much we eat or don’t eat.  It’s the norm that is working against us in our expectations from a serving, just like the norm of being overweight as I mentioned in the beginning.  We’ve gotten ourselves used to such large portions of items that normal servings look like bird food!

So what are some things you can you do to avoid the portion distortion when out to dinner or even when cooking at home?

1. Use a smaller plate – don’t reach for the big fancy china dish but instead take the salad plate.  May look small at first but over time you’ll save a lot of calories and get used to it.

2. When at a restaurant immediately put 1/2 to go.  I do this all the time and it works.  It takes 20 minutes when eating to begin to feel full.  If you leave everything there you will be tempted to consume it before you even realize you’re full.  Now you’re too full!  Take it home and eat it tomorrow or give it to your child or pet for their next meal.

3. This is one that the critiques are out on, but is worth mentioning:  if given a choice eat your food on blue plates/bowls/cups etc.  Red apparently is a strong bold color and has shown in studies to increase your appetite (how deceiving!).  On the other hand blue is shown to have the opposite effect.  What colors are your plates in your kitchen?

4. Measure your serving sizes.  The method of “I’ll add a dash of this, a dab of that. scoop of this…”, is just not reliable.  That extra tablespoon or 1/2 cup could be over time what’s standing between you and that waistline especially when it comes to highly caloric items like cheeses, oils and peanut butter.

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Written by Kimberly Evans

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