There is no doubt that portion size has increased over the preceding decades. It may have started in restaurants to give the customer the feeling of getting a good deal, but it bled into our home cooking as well: the size of your dinner plate has increased from nine inches to the current standard of 12 inches.
Going hand-in-hand with plate size, portion size has increased a whopping 23 percent over the last 60 years, and it’s not just the calories that cause a problem. That increase of food on your plate is rarely fruits or vegetables; it’s usually meats and refined carbohydrates such as bread, white rice, and pasta. The impact of all those refined carbohydrates on your body is tremendous and the result is, not surprisingly, obesity. It’s also diabetes, metabolic disease, and an increase in the need for medications like heartburn relief, just to name a few likely consequences of a larger serving size.
The size of a regular soda used to be 6.5 ounces and is now 20 ounces, an increase of 170 calories all from sugar, causing a significant impact on your insulin levels. If you use the argument that you are consuming diet soda, therefore it’s all good, you need to know that the results are just as bad — if not worse — with artificial sweeteners. The impact on your gut microbes is devastating, and you are training your body to crave ‘sweet,’ which also has a negative impact your health.
As I work with people, guiding them to eat in a way that elevates their health, the greatest challenge is portion control. My clients make the switch to ‘real’ food fairly easily once they realize they are the victims of corporate manipulation where processed and packaged foods are concerned.
If weight loss is a goal, then portion size is crucial. There are some weight loss systems out there that provide containers to help you with portion size, not to mention the old school weighing and measuring approach. Rarely are either of these a sustainable way to eat.
You need to internalize what an appropriate portion size is for your body. I tell people to prepare whatever would be a typical portion size and, before taking it to the table, cut everything in half, put one half in a storage container and then place it in the fridge. Sit down and enjoy your meal. If you are still hungry an hour or so later, eat the second half of your portion.
This will help you hone in on what a proper serving size looks like for you. Generally speaking, when you eat a meal, you should feel satisfied and not hungry for about two-and-a-half to three hours, at which time you should then have a light snack.
If you are hungry before that time, you either ate too little during that meal or it was not a meal composed of complex carbohydrates (including brown rice, quinoa, vegetables) along with healthy fats (such as avocado, olive oil, nuts), and a lean protein. This is the combination of ingredients that keep all your food related hormones happy. If three hours comes and goes and you aren’t beginning to feel hungry, then you may have eaten too much at one sitting.
Your brain has a lot to do with how satisfied you feel with your portion size. For that reason you should take a look at the size of your plate. A dinner plate 30 years ago is about the size of today’s salad plate, and the reason that makes a difference is study after study shows that when the plate is bigger, so is the amount of food you heap on it.
Don’t make your brain have to struggle to understand that you’re getting plenty to eat. The standard size dinner plate, when obesity was a rarity, was nine-to-ten inches in diameter. Now dinner plates run around 12 inches, and that slight size difference makes a big difference in the number of calories you consume. Rather than buying new dishes, consider using your salad plate as a dinner plate and see what happens automatically to your portions size.
There are lots of diets that will take care of portion size for you, but every body is different and those diets rarely accommodate our individual nature. Becoming aware of your body and how your body thrives is key to long-term health, wellness and weight control; you’re not going to understand your body by allowing someone or something else to control your food for you.
Also, if you are eating mostly whole grains and complex carbohydrates, portion size is somewhat self limiting because you can only eat so much broccoli or brown rice before your tummy tells you that you’ve had enough! Not so with food that is stripped of its fiber and other nutritional components.
Just for fun, try serving dinner on a salad plate and see what happens. If you are still hungry an hour after dinner you can always go back for more or have a snack. For the best care and feeding of your body, get used to feeling how your body feels!