Portion sizes have changed dramatically over the past 20 to 30 years. A portion is what you serve yourself or what a restaurant serves you. The reality is that a portion is sometimes larger than it should be. If we manage our portions or “smart-size” them by eating the right amount of food, we will “right-size” our bodies. Smart-sizing our portions, together with physical activity, helps us maintain a healthy weight.
A serving is a measure set by the government and is found on food labels. The problem today is when we look at a normal serving of a food, it looks too small in comparison to what we know of as portions of food served in restaurants and found in food packages. It’s not a problem with our eyes; it’s portion distortion.
Read labels carefully to avoid portion distortion. The label will tell you how many servings are in the package. For instance, let’s look at the label of a 20-ounce soda. It actually contains more than one serving. So if you drink the whole 20 ounces, you are drinking two-and-a-half servings, or enough soda for you and a friend with some left over.
You can estimate what a healthy portion is with a measuring tool that is no farther away than your own hand. A small handful of nuts is about 1 ounce. Three ounces of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of playing cards. One ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb or a 9-volt battery. One slice of bread counts as one serving or 1 ounce. So if you have a sandwich for lunch, the two slices of bread count as two of your servings for the day. Your fist is about the size of one cup or one medium piece of fruit.
Our eyes and our appetites have become accustomed to the larger portion sizes we see every day. To help us control our portions, we need to give our bodies an opportunity to reset. One strategy could be to measure the foods we eat into the correct serving sizes for each meal for one to three days. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to help prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. So let’s smart-size our portions and right-size our bodies.
For more information, please contact Rosemary Crumb-Pipkin, Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by Email at [email protected], or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.