Healthy Eating: Portion Contortion, Food and Your Waistline
Pat Salzer, Health and Wellness Consultant, weighs in on healthy food choices and realistic portions.
Is there a direct correlation between larger portion sizes and expanding waistlines? Depends on what food you’re measuring. If you mean broccoli, that’s one thing. Bring it on. If you’re talking ice cream, that’s a different story.
We often underestimate the calories we consume. Check yourself by scooping out your normal portion of ice cream. Then compare it with a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Do the same with your usual serving of broccoli or other vegetable. You may find your portion of ice cream much bigger than the one of broccoli. You probably don’t need me to tell you it should be the other way around!
But, this exercise may get you to thinking about portions and how much of which foods you should consume each day to maintain, lose or gain weight.
Experts recommend eating more servings of healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while scaling back servings of meat and processed foods. One way to do this is to treat meat as a side dish rather than the main event, then bulk up your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
To determine how many calories your body needs each day, go to choosemyplate.gov. When you enter your age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity under “Daily Food Plan,” you’ll get an instant estimate of what and how much you need to eat. If your ideal daily consumption should amount to 1,800 calories, here’s how you could mix it up:
- 1 ½ cups of fruit
- 2 ½ cups of vegetables
- Six one-ounce equivalents of grain products (a one-ounce equivalent is a slice of bread, ½ cup cooked pasta, rice or cereal or one cup of ready to eat cereal), aiming for at least 3 ounces of whole grains a day
- Three servings of dairy (a serving equals one cup of fat free or low fat milk or yogurt or 1½ ounces of natural cheese)
- 5 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish (one-ounce equivalents include one ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked dry beans or peas, one tablespoon of peanut butter, one egg or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds)
- Five teaspoons of olive, canola or peanut oil that provide essential fatty acids
That leaves a discretionary allowance of about 160 calories which can be used for “fun foods” (perhaps that ½ cup of ice cream?).
The key to maintaining a healthy weight is to balance calories in and calories out. Eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat, but keep the scales tipped in favor of healthy foods with portion sizes appropriate for the type of food you’re eating.
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