Portion Distortion

The North American mindset bigger is better is apparent in so many areas of lifestyle, such as homes, cars, tvs and even meals. “Supersize me”, 14-inch dinner plates and extra large coffees are now the norm.

While common, this mindset does not bode well for our waistlines!

Research shows that we eat more if we are served a larger portion. Take the well-known stale popcorn study for example. Researchers split participants into two groups, giving both groups bags of 14-day old popcorn. One group was given a large bag and the other group was given a small bag and amounts eaten were recorded. They found that people ate 34% more popcorn when given the larger bag! And stale popcorn doesn’t even taste that good!

The same effect happens when we eat off larger plates. Back in the day, the average dinner plate was 8.5 inches in diameter. Today the average size is between 11-14 inches. With either size, the average person will fill it up, leading us to eat more at meals.

I often do an experiment with my clients where I place food on an 8.5 inch plate and ask people what they think. The response is always it looks like a lot of food. I then take the same food and place it onto an 11 inch plate and the response is that it is not enough food! People are shocked at their reaction because they’ve just said it looked like a lot of food!

I believe that if we could watch our portion sizes and eat the right amounts for each food group according to our individual needs, we wouldn’t have to obsess so much about calories. Counting calories is very labor intensive and can create an unhealthy relationship with food.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to help keep your portions in check:

1. Choose to eat off of an 8.5-inch dinner plate whenever possible.
2. Use the divided plate concept at home or in a restaurant. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, a ¼ with grains and ¼ with protein (meat/fish/poultry/tofu/beans/lentils). If you are still hungry, have more veggies; it’s the one portion size that people tend not to overdo.
3. Avoid the mega size bags of snack foods like chips, cookies, etc. at the grocery store. If you are going to buy them as a treat, buy the smaller size bags or portion out smaller servings right away.
4. Keep a journal of what you eat. What you think you eat and what you actually eat are often different. Mindfulness is key to making more balanced choices.

Visit our Facebook page each day this week to learn the appropriate portion sizes for each food group.

February 13, 2012
Revive Wellness