Eve's Health & Fitness

DOB: October 27 CURRENT RESIDENCE: North Eastern Oklahoma OCCUPATION: Certified Group Fitness Instructor HEIGHT:5'1"; WEIGHT:105 lbs.; BF%:14.3% bodyfat FAVORITE BODY PARTS TO TRAIN: Back, abs FAVORITE CHEAT MEAL: Mexican and any dark chocolate CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Featured as a fitness role model in Chad Tackett's Global-Health & Fitness website: http://www.global-fitness.com/ DESCRIBE MYSELF: Competitive, energetic, persistent, focused, consistent, and driven.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Portion Distortion?!

Just How Much Food Is on That Plate? Understanding Portion Control

Most people consume far more calories than they realize. The culprit? A warped sense of portion size.

According to a survey conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), most Americans (78%) still believe that the kind of food they eat is more important in managing their weight than the amount of food they eat.

Respondents to the AICR survey were asked to estimate the standard servings defined by the USDA Food Guide Pyramid for eight different foods, including pasta, green salad, beans, and mashed potatoes. Only 1% of respondents correctly answered all eight serving-size questions, while 63% missed five or more. A notable 31% managed to estimate only one serving size correctly.

Serving Sizes Essential to Good Nutrition

Experts say that understanding the concept of standard serving sizes is essential to good nutrition. Standardized serving sizes help consumers, health professionals, and food manufacturers find a common language for the sake of communication.

Although serving sizes are "standardized," individual portion sizes will vary, because people have different caloric requirements. Portion size also depends on a person's specific weight management goals and health needs. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women may require larger portions of food than do women who are not pregnant or nursing.

Weight Management: The American Dilemma

The problems of obesity and lack of nutrition awareness also seem to have a cultural component. Take a look at fast food restaurants. Most of these restaurants offer "super-size" or "value" meals, which often contain an entire day's worth of calories and fat.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that Americans' total daily caloric intakes have risen by 148 calories per day since 1980. This amount reflects an extra 15 pounds every year.

Interestingly, the same studies show that the amount of fat in the average American diet has decreased from 40% of total calories to 33% during the same period. So even though calories from fat have decreased—at nine calories per gram of fat versus only four for a gram of carbohydrate or protein—Americans have more than made up for their lower fat intakes with larger portion sizes of other types of foods. Larger portion sizes equal more calories. And more calories lead to weight gain, regardless of the source of the calories—fat, protein, or carbohydrate.

Fat provides a feeling of fullness, which can help some people avoid eating to excess. By cutting fat out of their diets, people may loose this signal to stop eating. In addition, many "low-fat" and "no fat" foods can be just as high—and in some cases higher—in calories compared to the regular versions. This is because manufacturers often add extra sugar to make-up for the taste lost with the fat.

Nutritional Needs Vary

Portion sizes and overall dietary requirements depend on several factors, including activity level. For example, an inactive person may only need three-quarters to one cup of cereal in the morning, which is the usual serving size of most varieties. But someone who runs several miles a day or who engages in other forms of aerobic exercise may need two or three standard serving sizes.

To help determine a standard serving size, Ms. Polk recommends measuring out Food Guide Pyramid serving sizes or those listed on the "Nutrition Facts" food label.

How to Estimate Portion Sizes

What's a portion size? According to the American Dietetic Association, you can use the following "models" to approximate portion sizes:

  • A deck of playing cards = one serving (three ounces) of meat, poultry, or fish (can also use the palm of a woman's hand or a computer mouse).
  • Half a baseball = one serving (one-half cup) of fruit, vegetables, pasta, or rice (can also use a small fist).
  • Your thumb = one serving (one ounce) of cheese.
  • A small hand holding a tennis ball = one serving (one cup) of yogurt or chopped fresh greens.

The AICR recommends the following tips to control food portions:

When at Home:

  • Take time to "eyeball" the serving sizes of your favorite foods (using some of the models listed above).
  • Measure out single servings onto your plates and bowls, and remember what they look like. Figure out how many servings should make up your personal portion, depending upon whether you need to lose, gain, or maintain weight.
  • Avoid serving food "family style." Serve up plates with appropriate portions in the kitchen, and don't go back for seconds.
  • Never eat out of the bag or carton.

When in Restaurants:

  • Ask for half or smaller portions. (Don't worry if it doesn't seem cost-effective; it's worth it.)
  • Eyeball your appropriate portion, set the rest aside, and ask for a doggie bag right away.
  • If you order dessert, share it or choose a healthier option like fruit.
  • Seek Dietary Guidance

    If you are unsure about your personal nutrition requirements, seek the advice of a registered dietitian (RD). These professionals can create individual menus and food plans that are suited to your specific weight management and overall health goals.

    References:

    American Institute for Cancer Research
    http://www.aicr.org

    American Dietetic Association
    http://www.eatright.org

Cheers,

Eve:-)

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