NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Portion Distortion

Portion Distortion


                 Americans often associate bigger with better and that connections carries over to the amount of food we eat.  In the 1980’s a typical slice of restaurant pizza contained 500 calories, today the calorie count is closer to 850 for a much larger slice of pizza.  The same trend holds true for soft drinks.  A 1980’s serving of soda had 85 calories; today’s mega-serving had 225 calories. And it isn’t just fast foods that have grown in size and calorie count.  A delicatessen turkey sandwich in 1980 had 320 calories; today’s much larger sandwich had 820 calories.

                It can be difficult to not only maintain a healthy diet but understand the correct portion size for each meal. With restaurants serving enormous plates of food, fast food serving a whole day’s worth of calories for one meal, and pizza slices being served in larger portions every year, it has become harder to know how much to eat.  Some tips for controlling your portion sizes include:

                Use a smaller plate or bowl -Use a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. Your plate will be fuller and the smaller portions will look larger.

                See what you are eating -Rather than sitting on the couch with a whole bag of chips, portion foods onto plates or into bowls rather than eating directly from the box, bag, or container. Seeing the food in a dish gives you a visual cue of how much you’re actually eating.

                Serve smaller portions -You’ll waste less food if you serve yourself less to begin with. If you are still hungry you can take more. If you accidentally take too much food, don’t feel obligated to clean your plate.

                Limit distractions -Focus on the food when you’re eating meals. The computer, TV, cell phones, books and magazines can take your attention away from the meal, causing you to pay less attention to what you are eating.

                Learn to read food labels. Pay attention to the number of servings contained in the package, then note the calorie and fat content per serving. If, for example, the label on a large muffin indicates that one serving has 250 calories and 10 grams of fat, and the muffin contains two servings, then you'll have eaten 500 calories and 20 grams of fat from that muffin.

                Repackage supersize bags. Supersize bags may be more economical, but they can also encourage you to overeat. If you buy huge bags of chips or pretzels, for example, repackage the contents into smaller containers.

                Share a meal. Order an appetizer and split one main course with another person when you go out for a meal. Share an order of fries with everyone at your table. Order one dessert and some extra forks. Four people can enjoy a few bites of a decadent dessert and it’s probably just the right amount!  

                A terrific online resource is the MyPlate web site at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-portion-distortion with great examples of how out of portion some of our typical servings are!

                An online resource can be found at the MyPlate web site.



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