These days, can any of us really tell what a portion should be? Do we even really pay attention to how much food we put on our plates or, heck, do we pay attention to the size of the plates on which we put our food?
For example, if you have one at home or the next time you’re in a grocery store, look at the size of a cheap paper plate. It’s about 9 inches in diameter. If you’ve ever used one at a cookout or any other gathering at which a meal was served, you may have thought such a plate to be too small. But, did you know that until the 1970’s, this was the average size of dinner plates across the U.S.? After that, plate sizes started getting larger and, today, the size of an average dinner plate is about 12 inches. More plate often equals more food.
Also, look at the size of the food we consume (although I don’t know if all the stuff I eat can truly be called “food”). I’ll give you a case-in-point: a few months ago, my wife and I went to a movie. As you know, concession prices are typically high so, I ordered a small Coke. The person proceeds to fill up what looks like a small pail with my drink. I ask about the size and they tell me a “small” drink is 32 oz. He then proceeds to tell me that a lot of people go for the large (which is 48 oz., I believe) because they can get one free refill. This is an extreme example but, go to any fast food place and look at the sizes of drinks. No, my memory is not the greatest but, I believe that, when I was kid, a small drink was about 12 oz., a medium was 16 oz. and a large was in the neighborhood of 20-22 oz. Now, what we used to call a large is now the small and anything under that size is a kid’s drink (scary, huh?).
The point I’m getting to is that, in addition to the fact that there are so many more crazy additives to our food, the portions we eat are ridiculous. In fact, we would feel ripped off if we went to a restaurant and were served an actual recommended portion. Combine the amounts we eat with our more sedentary lifestyles and it’s little wonder why we can’t seem to shake this obesity epidemic. I believe people want to eat better and healthier but lack ready resources to inform them of better alternatives to their current diets. It’s only when we hit a wall with our weight or some health issue arises that many of us are shocked into considering what we’re consuming. We certainly can’t expect those who sell the these large portions to put this information out for us, front-and-center.
So, what to do?
- Get smaller plates: There are portion-control plates that you can get in both adult and kids sizes. It helps to retrain your mind on what a proper portion should look like.
- Read, Read, Read: Read the packages of the food you buy or check out the websites of restaurants for nutritional information. Read them carefully because you need to know how many actual servings there are in the food you’re buying. You may not think 450 calories is that bad for a serving of the meal you bought, only to realize after you’ve eaten it that there were 4 servings and you actually consumed 1800 calories.
- Take some of the guesswork out of your eating: Sometimes, just have some steamed vegetables (with a small piece of grilled chicken breast, if you like), or salad that goes easy on the cheese, bacon bits or the dressing. I’m not saying that this is every meal (I obviously didn’t get this big by eating salad) but, sometimes, you don’t want to have to worry about calorie counts so, eating a meal that doesn’t bring on this anxiety can help a lot.
- Drive by instead of driving through: This is a really tough one for me. We have a restaurant here called “Big Boy” and it serves a burger dripping with tartar sauce and some of the best hot fudge cake you’ve ever tasted. But, I’m already a “big boy”, myself so, I keep it moving. It’s not punishment to discipline yourself to cut back on the fast food.