portion creep

I call it portion creep.  I start out measuring and weighing my food.  One cup of rice or pasta (level–no mounding) placed on my salad plate.  Weigh out 3 or 4 ounces of meat.  Then fill the rest of the plate with vegetables.  (HINT:  Starting with the vegetables first is actually a better idea).  Then I begin to eyeball my portions.  A scoop the size of my fist or a tennis ball  is about a cup and a deck of cards or the palm of my hand is approximately 3 ounces of meat.  But pretty soon, I start kidding myself that a scoop of rice the size of a large grapefruit is about right.  And so it’s back to measuring and weighing.

Difference between a portion and a serving.   A portion is the amount of a specific food you choose to eat.  A serving is the recommended amount of that food.    So keep an eye on the serving size shown on the Nutrition Facts label and the number of servings in the package.  You may be in for a surprise. Your normal portion may be twice or three times the recommended serving size.  For example, the common serving size for ice cream is 1/2 cup.  How many of us actually eat only 1/2 cup of our favorite ice cream?  Or how about our drinks?  How many servings are in that can of tea or that cup of coffee?  I know that what I consider a normal portion is definitely larger than the recommended serving size for many of my favorite foods.

Portion sizes have gotten larger over the years.  Restaurant portions have gotten larger.  Soda, popcorn, candy bars  and other snack foods come in large, huge and gigantic sizes now.  Even our plates, bowls and glasses have gotten bigger.

So what can you do?

  • Be aware of how portions have grown over 20 years — take the Portion Distortion Quiz I from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
  • Understand the Nutrition Facts labels from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Check the serving size and the number of servings in every package.
  • Split an entree when eating out.
  • Take home half of what you order in a restaurant.
  • Use salad plates for your meals at home.
  • Re-package bulk foods into smaller size portions.
  • Use serving spoons that also measure your portion.
  • Weigh & measure you’re food, if not at each meal then every week or so.
What will you do to avoid portion creep this week?

Portion Size visuals and cues:

originally posted 2009.46

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