I think people very often overlook one of the most important things when it comes to losing and maintaining weight – portion sizes. The other thing is to learn the difference between a serving and a portion. I want to look at both of these today.
Trying to figure out how much we should eat of which foods can be a bit confusing between food guides and pyramids, and even the differences between countries as to what those portions should be.
The United States introduced a new program a few years ago called My Plate which makes it so much simpler and I have recommended it to people for ages. It simply shows how you food should be portioned on your plate.
Basically it shows that our plates should be 1/2 a combination fruits and/or vegetables, 1/4 grains and 1/4 protein, with a small portion of dairy on the sides.
The website for my plate is https://www.choosemyplate.gov/
In 2016, Health Canada introduced it’s version called the Eat Well Plate and no offense to my American friends and readers, I kind of like it better for a couple of reasons.
First it just combines the fruits and vegetables to be half the plate. It also shows the meat and alternative section to actually be a bit smaller than 1/4 of the plate.
I am not a vegetarian, but for many, many years our plates, especially with dinner, were very meat centered. There was a big portion of meat, then whatever few vegetables and potatoes on the side. It also shows water along side the dairy and even shows the importance of having a little fat and oil in our diets.
Health Canada has a terrific website with lots of good tips and ideas. Check it out at http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating-saine-alimentation/tips-conseils/interactive-tools-outils-interactifs/eat-well-bien-manger-eng.php . I know that’s a long one. Just look up Health Canada.
You can order portion plates from different companies that can help reinforce this idea of portions in their proper perspective. I have shown the one I just bought from a company called Diva Dish but there are lots out there.
I have found them handy when I go to events like a church potluck. It is so tempting to go overboard. We say we will just have a little of everything so people know I tried their food.
That can add up very quickly, so I will use my portion plate and just take the items I really want to try while still keeping to the right balance.
On both sides of the border, there have been food pyramids. I always found them a little confusing. Again Health Canada streamlined it in The Canada Food Guide which you can download or order printed copies from their website.
I found a new pyramid when I was taking my course as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist course and the main feature I like is that it shows exercise as the base of the pyramid. This is a very important point. There is a saying that you can’t outrun a bad diet. This is so true. The two have to go hand in hand.
The point I am trying to make is find a system that works for you. Find something that shows you what your food portions should like at each meal as well as totals for the day. For food portions for the day, I like the Canada Food Guide as it lays it out pretty clearly, and breaks it down for men and women and for different age groups. Order or download yours at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/order-commander/index-eng.php
So now, what’s the difference between a portion and a serving? A good way to learn about this is by analyzing food labels. Here is the label for Cheerios. (I am not doing an endorsement for Cheerios, just using this as an example of label information)
If you look, it says a serving size is 2/3 of a cup, and there are about 9 servings in the box.
When was the last time you measured 2/3 of a cup of cereal? Most people don’t measure. They just dump their cereal into their bowl, and it is very easy for this portion to end up being 2 or even 3 servings.
This is one of the ways people go over on the food consumption on a daily basis. The worst part for their health is that they THINK they have done it right. People will think, “well I just had a bowl of cereal for breakfast so I had one serving of grains” but they have actually had 2 or 3.
If you do that with serving sizes through the day, you could end up having double or triple the servings you should have.
Here’s another one that will surprise you. Many years ago, the serving size of soda was around 5 or 6 ounces. Now the most common serving size is 20 ounces. It says right on the bottle that one serving is one bottle. This means that where a single serving used to be 5 or 6 ounces, it is now 20. Even when Pepsi used to have a jingle that said “12 full ounces, that’s a lot”, 20 ounces is close to double of that 12 ounces.
I saw something very disturbing recently. A famous convenience store chain was having a sale on their icy slush drink, which in essence is ice and sugar syrup. The deal was your could bring your own container and fill it for 89 cents or something.
I saw two high school age kids walking down the road and each of them had a 4 litre (a gallon) milk jug full of this ice and sugar syrup concoction and all I could think of was How many calories are in that?
How many servings are there in a small candy bar? One, right? Not necessarily. I was at a diabetic conference once and the speaker was talking about food labels. She asked how many had eaten a sugar free candy bar and most of the hands in the room went up.
She then showed us labels side by side of a regular chocolate bar and a “diabetic” or sugar free bar. The calories were within 10 calories of each other – but the diabetic bar said it was two servings. That means the calories were actually double those of the regular bar. If you don’t look at serving size, you can easily overlook something like that.
Just watch your portions, plates and pyramids and it gets so much easier.
Until next time, have a healthy and happy day.