For Better Living

How much are you really eating?

The next time you’re having a meal, especially in a restaurant, take a look at the portion sizes. Can your meat fit in the palm of your hand or is it hanging off the plate? And speaking of the plate, can you see any of it?

If you’re like most Americans, you suffer from “portion distortion.”

Over the past two decades, our nation’s meals have expanded; and so have our waistlines. People may be counting calories, carbohydrates or fat grams, but they’re not measuring portion sizes. Research shows that large portion sizes lead to overeating.

How big is big?

Nutritionists compared the standard portion serving sizes, those commonly found in stores and restaurants, with serving sizes recommended by USDA. Here’s what they found:

— Cookies as much as 7 times the recommended serving size.

— Cooked pasta nearly 5 times the recommended serving size.

— Muffins weighing in at over 3 times the recommended serving size.

Portions vs. serving size

To better track the amount of food you eat, it’s important to know the difference between portions and serving sizes. A portion is your preference: the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size. A toddler’s portion will be much smaller than a teen’s portion.

A serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat. Servings don’t measure calories; they identify an amount.

For example, when you make a sandwich, your portion likely includes two pieces of bread. But the serving size for bread is one slice. That means that your portion equals two servings.

Here’s an example to illustrate serving size: You have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. A serving of the cereal you choose is listed as one-half of a cup. Even though you only had one BOWL or one portion of cereal it was 1 cup or two servings.

Smartsizing your portions

Instead of “supersizing,” try “smartsizing” your portions. These tips will help you track your portion sizes and keep them in check. Do your homework.

— Measure your food with measuring cups and spoons for one week.

— Keep a food journal for that week.

— Compare your typical servings with the recommended servings. You can find these at the USDA website:

— For hard-to-measure foods (snacks, French fries) count out the number of pieces in one


Limit liquid calories

— The serving size for sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and smoothies fits in a (small) coffee cup.

— Sodas are liquid sugar sources that don’t fill us up. Choose water instead or opt for a kid-sized soda.

— Switch to skim milk or 100% juice for a beverage with vitamins and minerals.

— Make water your beverage of choice. Add slices of lemon, lime or orange, or a splash of fruit juice.

Away from home

— Avoid super-sizing meals at fast food restaurants.

— Eat only half the entree: share an order, order a half portion or take half of the order home. *Don’t order an entree: have a salad and an appetizer as your meal.

— Go easy on the desserts. Take just five bites. Share a dessert or take some home for later.

At home

— Use smaller plates and bowls at home.

— Buy smaller packages of snack foods.

— “Batch cook” and divide prepared recipes into the number of servings specified BEFORE eating.

— Save leftovers or freeze.

Other helpful hints

— Make it satisfying. Truly enjoy your food; don’t eat while doing

something else.

— Eat slower.

— Be honest with yourself.

— If you eat a large portion size at one meal, eat less at the next meal.

— Always eat off a bowl or plate, instead of out of the carton or bag

— Trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough, but remember it takes about 20 minutes

for your stomach to send a message to your brain that you are “full”.

Source: N.C. Cooperative Extension


Cherry Chocolate Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cans (20 oz. each) reduced-sugar cherry pie filling, divided

3/4 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry cake mix, eggs and almond extract.

Stir in one can of pie filling until blended. Transfer to a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, coated with nonstick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Top individual servings with remaining pie filling.

Sandra R. Cain is the extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.
How much are you really eating?
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