Shari Duncan

Tag: Nutrition Label

See Less, Eat Less. Portion Distortion
Shari

by on Mar.27, 2011, under General HEALTH, General Nutrition, Motivation, Weight Loss

One of the most important pieces of information in a nutrition label is the serving size.

There is a difference between “a portion” and “a serving”. A serving is a standard or measure on how much food to eat and has been chosen by the manufacturer to describe the nutritional value of that food. For example 1 cup of milk, or a half a cup of oats. A portion is the amount of food someone CHOOSES to put on their plate and eat. Be mindful of portion sizes, for example 1 cup of oatmeal is actually considered 2 servings.

Buyers beware! Packaging can be misleading.  Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain  multiple servings. The Nutrition fact label on packaged foods—on the backs of cans, sides of boxes, etc. — also informs you of the number of servings in the container.  We may look at the calories but don’t notice the stated serving size. This means we may be consuming more calories, fat, sugar, sodium, etc.

For example, look at the label of a 20-ounce soda (typically consumed as one portion), and you’ll see that it has 2.5 servings in it.  So if you choose to drink the whole bottle of Pepsi, you are consuming 250 calories and a whopping 69 grams of sugar!  A 3-ounce bag of chips—which some would consider a single portion—is actually 3 servings.

Buyer Beware: This is 2 1/2 servings & contains 69gms of sugar!

Another example of portion distortion is the bagel.   A typical bagel used to be 2 to 3 ounces, or about 200 calories. Today one bagel is 5 to 6 ounces, which can be well over 400 calories, depending on the type. (This is without any “schmear” on top!)   That same 5- ounce bagel that you might enjoy for breakfast is the equivalent of 5 pieces of bread and comprises the five servings of breads/grains that someone should eat for the entire day.

We live in a world of all you can eat buffets and “supersized” convenience foods. And when food is put in front of us, we will eat.  Restaurant portions tend to be two times or more than is recommended at one sitting, which leads to way too many calories. We can retrain ourselves to eat more slowly and stop eating when we are satisfied…not full. Also, it is healthier to eat several smaller meals, rather than a few large meals a day. This is because it keeps your body in the digesting-food mode, which means it keeps your metabolism up.

One of the easiest ways to cut back on calories and lose weight is by monitoring portion sizes.

A couple of “visual” tips to help with portion control and avoid consuming too many extra calories: In general terms, one hand, cupped = 1/2cup, two hands, cupped = 1 cup. An open palm, or the size of a deck of cards = 3-4 oz, the

Portion Distortion

standard serving size for a piece of chicken or fish,  and a serving of potatoes about the size of a computer mouse, for example.  Get to know the recommended portion sizes for your favorite foods and strive to stick to that as closely as

you can.   Another way to prevent over indulgence is to serve meals on smaller side plates, instead of dinner plates.  Think of meat and pasta as the side dishes and vegetables as the main course.  Fill half your plate with veggies, one quarter with lean protein (meat) and on quarter with starch/carbs (pasta, rice, potato).  Once you get into the habit of monitoring portions, it will become second nature and easier to monitor.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who shrank their portions by 25% slashed 250 calories a day—enough to help them lose a half-pound a week—and still felt full.

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