Portion distortion hits North American waistlines

As dishes and cutlery continue to grow in size, our waistlines are following suit.

Were you told to “eat everything on your plate because there’s starving children in the world”? Was dessert used as a reward for eating all of your dinner, especially vegetables, when you were growing up?

As dishes and cutlery continue to grow in size, our waistlines are following suit. The amount of food offered at meals is growing all around us at home and at restaurants. With the unconscious thought and automatic behaviour of needing to finish everything on our plates, the amount of food at meals is naturally increasing and so is our tendency to overeat at mealtimes.

Servings that used to be a reasonable size are generally now two to three times an appropriate size. Plus, at a restaurant, if portions are small, you may feel like you haven’t gotten much value for your money. Buffets are a recipe to overeat, with the “bottomless” second/ third/ fourth helpings.

Here’s a quick guide to estimate appropriate sized single serving portions.

Serving size reference

(eatrightontario.ca dietitians)

Palm of hand or cellphone (75 grams/ 2 ounces): fish/chicken/meat.

Computer mouse (1/2 cup/ 125 ml): rice/ pasta/ potato.

Tennis ball (3/4 cup/ 175 ml): yogurt/ tofu/ hot cereal.

Thumb tip (1 tsp/ 5 ml): butter/ oil.

Two (2) thumb tips (1.5 oz/ 50 g): cheese.

Both palms open (2 cups/ 500 ml): vegetables (two servings).

It can be difficult to stop eating even when you’ve had enough. Often, when we are eating, food tastes so good that we keep going until it’s all finished.

Here are some strategies if you eat out more than once per week, since portions at restaurants tend to be bigger than normal.

Eat slowly

During a meal, slowing down can help the signal reach from the stomach to the brain to let you know your fuel gauge is full, and your body doesn’t need any more. Put your fork down between bites and drink water.

Also, try stopping a couple of times during your meal to ask yourself if you’re still hungry. It’s easy to get distracted and eat more than you need. If you wait until you feel full, often by then, you have overeaten.

Eat less

at the restaurant

Before the meal comes, you can think about eating only half of what you’re being served and taking the other half home.

Ask the server to clear your plate and wrap leftovers to go, when you feel full, instead of mindlessly eating until the plate is clear. You won’t be tempted to nibble on food (even if you are stuffed) if it’s not sitting in front of you.

Share the sweets

Do you like to treat yourself to dessert when you eat out?

Many times dessert tastes better when you still have room for the sweet foods.

Why don’t you enjoy a little taste by eating slowly and savouring every spoonful? Some restaurants have a tasting menu with bite-sized desserts. Most restaurants serve up large desserts. Try sharing the treat by ordering one dessert to split between a few people.

Plus, pairing up your decadent dessert with something lighter can mean enjoying the taste, plus not overindulging. For example, order fresh fruit and split a thin slice of chocolate cake.

In addition there are usually healthier dessert options such as frozen yogurt, angel food cake, or sorbet to choose from.

If water is not going to please your palate for a drink while eating out, try club soda with a slice of lemon or lime to offer some fizz with no calories.

Eating out can be a special treat once in a while. If it happens to be a regular occurrence for yourself or family, methods to intentionally eat healthy and choose wisely will help to make the most out your dining experience without sacrificing your healthy habits.

 

* Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian who is passionate about health and wellness. She is co-owner of Canal Beach.

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