Thursday, February 17, 2011
What's a serving size?
When purchasing food in the store you often look at how many servings the package contains so you know how long it will last with your family and what the nutritional information is, this only applies however if you follow the suggested serving size.
It’s tedious, I know, to measure your cereal in the morning or measure out exact portions for everyone at dinner time but it’s also very much worth it. Bigger portions mean more calories and even a small amount of extra calories can have a huge impact on your weight. Let’s say you are only taking in 300 extra calories a day, that’s two large handfuls of chips or a bar and a half of chocolate or seven strips of bacon, that little bit turns into 2 and half pounds of weight gain in a month. Not too bad for you? Well over a year that turns into 30 pounds of weight gain. All from just 300 extra calories a day.
The biggest complaint is that the suggested serving size is too small. My question to is: are you sure? Have you actually portioned out a serving, ate it, and still felt hungry? Try it out for a few days and see how you feel. Be sure you’re eating all the food you’re supposed to be like vegetables that are colorful, fruits, whole grains and dairy.
If you only cut back on portion sizes without eating whole meals it will be painful and you’ll walk around hungry. Instead of a big bowl of cereal for breakfast, have a serving size bowl with a piece of fruit and a hard-boiled egg. For lunch instead of a sandwich with chips and pop, have half a sandwich with vegetables and dip, fruit and some flavored water.
All packages are required to have what the serving size is but that doesn’t mean they make it easy to figure out. Everyone has a set of measuring cups in your kitchen drawer but when the bag say’s: 5 oz or 3 grams or .25 liters you say “Screw that” and eat however much you want. I’d suggest buying a food scale, they’re inexpensive depending on the brand and features and last a lifetime. You can find lots digital scales for under $30, some even under $20, and non-digital food scales run $15-$20. Look at Target.com, Walmart.com or Overstock.com if you can’t find them at these prices at your local store (search for Food Scale).
For foods that might not come in packages here’s a short list of serving sizes.
Nuts: ½ cup
Leafy Greens (such as salad): 2 cup
Fruit or Vegetable Juice: 1 cup
Dried Fruit: ½ cup
Fruit or vegetables: 1 cup (or one medium sized fruit)
Rice and Pasta: ½ cup
Meat: 4 oz
Cheese: 1 oz
You’ll notice I haven’t included any of the “handy” guides that often accompany articles about serving sizes, such as “the size of your palm” or “a baseball” or “the size of a checkbook”. I find such helpful tips useless. My palm is different from yours which is different from my brothers. And a baseball size serving of fruit is easy to estimate when talking apples and oranges but when it comes to bananas things get tricky.
So try out portion sizes this week. Make sure you’re eating complete meals from all the food groups and have a glass of water with every snack and meal.