Does Size Matter?

We are all familiar with these phrases: Eat everything on your plate! Let’s go to the buffet! Get that Jack-ed up! Despite what we think about these common phrases, discovering a good portion is tricky and controlling the types and amounts of food we eat is always a challenge.

People are notorious at over consumption. This does not mean we count every calorie we consume for the rest of our lives, but we do need to make an effort to determine the best portion size for our meals and snacks. We want to stay well and work towards eating the right portion size for ourselves if we are not on that path already.

A portion of food is the amount of food you choose to consume. This varies greatly between individuals and differs from a serving size, which is a recommended amount based on what an adult would usually eat at one time.

The obvious strategy would be to eat less of everything to counter the outcomes of large portions. The math of portions we consume may seem pretty simple – limit portions and lose weight but does that mean eat 1 cookie vs eating 5 celery sticks? Or is it eating 1 cookie vs eating 5 cookies? Limiting portions of the same foods has shown evidence of reducing weight (Rolls BJ, Morris EL, Roe LS. Portion size of food affects energy intake in normal-weight and overweight men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002). We all want that whole row of cookies but reducing the number we consume by eating slowly will provide time for our brain to know when our stomach is content. It is a start to practicing portion control, however celery sticks would be the recommended choice of snack.

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Reducing the size we consume can be restrictive and hard to sustain. It is not necessary for people to overall eat less food to manage their weight. When trying to lose or gain weight/mass, what we consume is crucial. You want to start this change gradually. Weight loss is a result of eating fewer calories than you expend. When you eat more calories than you expend, the result is weight gain.  A simple tactic of unlimited salads and greens with a meat portion the size of your fist can help with portions of different foods.

How many times have we waited to eat until we are so hungry we can eat a horse? And sometimes we don’t even sit! When you wait until you’re starved to eat, you end up consuming a larger portion and consuming fast. Nobody wants to take a break when you’re hard at work on something or have a deadline at work, so a suggestion is pack those snacks! Preportioned food is a great approach to provide the appropriate portion and reduce the exposure to large portions. Three meals a day and a snack are average and fit most schedules. This also prevents leaving huge gaps between meal times and reduces the risk of eating larger amounts.

Labels on food packages help with a portion average. How many of us can sit in front a TV and eat a whole bag of chips? I think many of us agree we could, or we want to but try not to or we try to limit as per serving size on the bag. Although we might be zoned into an intense episode or movie, we should pay attention to the quantity and not get carried away and take our time chewing. For e.g. If the serving size is for 3 servings and you consume all the contents of the package, you have tripled the calories, the fat, the sodium etc. for the portion eaten.

Schedules today can be hectic. It can be hard to eat small portions more frequently as recommended. It can be hard to choose the best options for fast food or food on the go. But we have to get motivated and want to develop good habits to a point that it has become a lifestyle.

Some great strategies to practice on a daily basis are:

  • Eat until you are satisfied and not much more.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well.  This will provide time for your brain to know when your stomach is content.
  • Pay attention. Using the food label can help gauge one serving.
  • Practice preportioned foods. Buy in bulk for a better value and measure/pack small portions in advance to avoid the temptation of overeating.

Habits do not change overnight.  Eating well will take commitment. Determining how much to eat can take more thought than many put into their meals. So size itself may not matter but it is the size of what you are consuming in respect to how much you expend that matters.

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