Portion control


Portion control

There are important differences between “serving size” and “portion size.” How much is on the plate versus how much you should really eat at one time? Does it matter?

If you are what you eat, are you sensibly portioned or super-sized?

The difference between portion size and serving size is the difference between math and interpretive dance. Portions are measured; servings are served.

In a restaurant, a “serving size” may be measured by the heap, the pile, or the slab on a brimming platter. Include the bread and appetizers, served in baskets and trays, a stampeding herd of runaway calories. You ordered a mountain of food, and there it is, loaded and slathered. It’s a healthy meal for a small village.

No healthy diet includes a heap, a pile, or a slab of anything, except maybe kale.

“Portion size,” by contrast, is the measured amount of something you should eat at one time. Tablespoons, ounces, and cups — reasonable amounts that you can recognize easily by sight.

Portion control is a great way to rein in bad eating habits, like snacking out of boxes and bags, or eating ice cream from its convenient pint-sized serving container.

This is where the “control” part of portion control comes into play — you don’t have to eat everything. Portion control is about eating reasonable, measured amounts of whatever is in your diet.

If you read the label of any packaged meal, it will tell you the nutritional information for the suggested serving size. Along with the vitamins, it lists the calories, the carbs, the sugars, the protein, the sodium, the fats, the cholesterol, and the actual weight of the suggested serving size, which is different than the total package weight.

There is another number on the label: servings per container. That number, times the actual weight of the suggested serving size, should approximately equal the total package weight. If you plan on eating the whole thing, multiply all of the nutritional information by that number.

“Serving size” celebrates the king-sized, the jumbo, the super-sized, the all-you-can-eat; a cultural lifestyle of everything over-sized, where all-you-can-eat is one serving. It’s fun, even challenging to eat an entire month’s calorie intake in one sitting.

The food industry blew up our perception of a sensibly portioned plate.

Every meal is not a food challenge. No thirst requires a ninety-six-ounce carbonated beverage whose name refers to the rupturing of an organ. Pay more attention to the amounts of things you put in your body.

Portion control fits easily into a healthy lifestyle. If you have ever been on a diet, you have heard of measuring your food into portions; if you have been on more than one diet, you will have noticed that every one of them measures portions.

This allows you to control your nutritional intake. Whatever your dietary goals are, there are numbers involved. Portion control helps you with your math. It uses smaller numbers.

Learn the sizes of healthy portions. A cup of something is about the size of your fist; or you can measure out a cup of vegetables to see what that portion size looks like. Use smaller plates, and pass on the second helping.

Unless your doctor has instructed otherwise, you do not necessarily have to give up anything. In fact, there is a reasonable portion size for everything.

Just not all at once.

Portion control is about knowing what you are eating. It is a lifestyle step toward a balanced diet, with long-term benefits that include lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Do you know what’s on your plate?


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