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Learning about Portion Sizes
By Rebecca Mohning   View more articles by this author
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February 03

If you haven’t noticed, portion sizes are getting larger every day.  Portions of common foods like pasta, hamburgers, fries, coffee, sodas, and bagels have doubled in size from where they were twenty years ago. With this growth have come increases in waistlines and body weight. It is time to pay closer attention to the portions and make adjustments for a healthier lifestyle. The problem is most people don’t know how much is appropriate to eat and what the proper serving size is for each food.

The first step in managing this problem is to understand how much you are actually consuming. Portions are different than serving sizes. A portion is the amount of food you decide to put on your plate to eat. Serving sizes are standards set by the USDA for each of the foods in each of the food groups. Learn to compare the portion size on your plate with the USDA's standard serving size. One serving of meat, poultry or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards or 3 oz. A rough estimate is provided by the palm of your hand: the palm of a women’s hand is equal to 4 oz and a man’s palm is 5 oz of meat. For most fruits, vegetables and grains, the serving size is one-half cup, which is about half the size of a women’s fist (a man’s fist is equal to 1.5 cups). One serving of milk or yogurt is 1 cup (8 oz) which is equal to a women’s fist. Aim for portions of rice or pasta on your plate to be equal to a woman’s fist. Once you get a good grasp on the standard for serving sizes it will become easier to recognize how much you can do without.

Moderation is essential when it comes to portions and calories. Choose your favorite foods less often and take smaller portions which will save calories. For example, try splitting your meal or order the appetizer size instead.  Actually, the best place to start adjusting portion sizes is in your own kitchen. Switch to smaller plates, bowls, and cups which can trick you into eating less at mealtime. Purchase measuring cups/spoons and a food scale to get an idea for how much you are eating and how to adjust to the proper portion size.

Proper portion control is the key to super-sizing your health and down-sizing your waistline. Remember it is not about giving up foods you enjoy, but rather controlling the portions. Lastly, use high fiber, low calorie foods like fruits and vegetables to add more volume to your meal to keep you full.

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