We’ve all seen the posters and education tools showing us how to visualize the true portion size of a food: 1 cup of vegetable or fruit should be the size of your fist or 3 ounces of meat should look like a deck of cards. We may have an idea of what a typical serving size should look like but the problem is how to apply this information in our everyday eating and what to do when servings at restaurants and food establishments are clearly different from what is recognized as a “single portion”. If 1 ounce of small candy is equal to a small handful, does that mean that is my allotment for the day? What happens if I am served a pancake that is larger than the size of a CD (which will almost always be the case)?
It is a great idea to try and equate serving sizes with familiar, everyday objects to better visualize how much a cup or a teaspoon of food would look like. The standard MyPyramid recommends the average person to eat about 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of vegetables, 3 cups of dairy or low-fat milk, 5-6 ounces of lean protein, 6-10 ounces of grains (preferably whole grains), and limited fats and sugars. MyPyramid emphasizes that “one size doesn’t fit all”, meaning daily recommendations are based on a set of factors, such as age, weight, height, and physical activity level. Try visiting http:///www.mypyramid.gov and go to “Get a personalized plan” to see your own recommendations. Once this is done, you are better able to make decisions about portion sizes and what foods to eat to meet your daily needs. If your recommended amount for veggies is 3 cups, for example, you can aim to eat about 3 fistfuls of different veggies by the end of the day.
This same principle is applied when eating out. An easy rule of thumb would be to eat half the entrée and bag the other half to take home. You could even split an entrée with a friend. Keep in mind these portion visuals to help meet your recommendations and not go overboard. When going to a steakhouse, for example, try to order a steak resembling most similar in size to a deck of cards. If you’re going to go ahead and order that 6 ounce, just remember eating the entire steak will put you at your daily recommended limit for protein.
Becoming more aware of portion sizes is important in long-term weight maintenance and overall healthy lifestyle changes. Unless you are aiming to lose weight, it is vital to not go under or over your daily recommended needs. Sticking with proper portions will keep you energized, improve your mood, and may even impact longevity. Portions and serving sizes are so easily misunderstood by the public, but now that you know its importance, battle the fight against portion distortion and be empowered!
Click here to see a handy guide on portion sizes!