Serve It Up Right
How to keep portion distortion under control
ONE OF THE FIRST STEPS on the journey to wellness
is making healthier food choices. Nonfat dairy and leaner cuts of
meat can help reduce calories and fat, while whole grains not only
contain more vitamins and minerals but also have more fiber to keep
you feeling fuller longer.
But what if the issue isn't what you're
eating, but how much?
In a survey conducted by the American Institute for Cancer
Research (AICR), just 1 percent of respondents could correctly
identify the recommended serving sizes of eight different foods,
such as mashed potatoes, green salad and pasta. (That would be ½
cup, 1 cup, and ½ cup, respectively.) Meanwhile, 63 percent of
respondents missed five or more questions.
Even the professionals can have trouble: An article in
the Journal of the American Dietetic Association
reveals that not just laymen but also "registered nurses and
dietitians … are inaccurate at estimating the calories from large
Adding to the confusion: The "Nutrition Facts" serving size
standards created by the federal government are based on
nutritional goals, while serving sizes used by food manufacturers
are based on customarily consumed portions. (It's a case of "should
eat" vs. "does eat.")
The cost of not knowing could be a heavy one-extra weight. An
extra ½ cup of creamed spinach at dinner translates into about 165
more calories. Do that every night, and you could be 15 pounds
heavier by year's end.
Bigger Isn't Always Better
While you could tote a measuring scale to the dining table,
luckily there are easier ways to overcome the "larger than life"
syndrome many people experience when plating food:
Use smaller plates and bowls. A study in the American
Journal of Preventive Medicineinvited nutrition science
professors and graduate students to an ice cream social. Some
received smaller ice cream bowls and scoops; some received bowls
that were twice as large; and some were handed bigger scoops, too.
Those who got bigger bowls and scoops served themselves 53 percent
more ice cream than those given small bowls and scoops. (The
serving size for ice cream, by the way, is ½ cup.)
Scale back automatically. Registered dietitian Karen Collins,
nutrition advisor to the AICR, suggests trying portions that are
three-quarters the size of usual. "Just eyeball the portion and cut
back by a quarter," says Collins. You could save up to 500 calories
Retrain your brain. Look up the serving size of your favorite
foods, then fill a measuring cup or spoon with that amount and turn
it out onto a clean plate. Study the actual size-what does ½ cup of
ice cream look like?-and keep that in the back of your mind the
next time you're serving it up.-By Sam