People love to eat. And that stands to reason! There are so many cultural foods, restaurants and options available, as compared to even 20 years ago when the best you could hope for was a local fast-food joint and perhaps one fine-dining restaurant in your home town. And for the most part, you wouldn’t set foot in that fine-dining establishment unless it was a special occasion. But these days, you can order just about any type of food online, in person or through delivery. Eating what you want (so long as you can afford it) has never been easier. And that’s a problem…
Over the past century, there has been a measurable increase in how much the average person eats during a meal. This has led to a heavy increase in obesity, heart and circulatory issues as well as contributing to Type-2 Diabetes. In fact, according to a 2012 article posted by The Globe And Mail, “most Canadians underestimate what constitutes one serving of meat, grains and fruit and vegetables under Canada’s Food Guide.” And that’s a pretty accurate statement, when you consider that the t-bone you just seared on your barbecue this summer was without a doubt higher than your recommended daily intake of meat.
For those who don’t live in the Great White North, Canada’s Food Guide was created in 1942 in order to help ensure Canadians were eating in the proper proportions and maintaining their proper health. It also took wartime rationing into consideration, but the Guide is still accurate and actively used. It essentially describes that the average plate of food should be comprised of 50% vegetables, 25% grains and fruits and 25% protein. Although that’s just the gist, it’s also the basis for how we should be measuring out our plates on a daily basis.
There are a lot of reasons why we tend to underestimate portions and eat more. Some of it is perception. Plates and implements are larger than they were in, say, the 1950’s. Some of it is a monetary issue; we expect more for less, as in we expect our plates to be loaded when we go to a restaurant or eatery even though portion sizes would dictate that we should eat far less. Just think about the last time you went a restaurant and ordered a plate of pasta. In Canada, if you pay $25 for a plate of pasta, you would damn well expect that the plate will be piled high with pasta, sauce and plenty of meatballs. And where the hell is my garlic bread???
Meanwhile, the actual recommended portion of pasta for a single meal is no bigger than a tennis ball. And that’s just one general example, but because of rising meal costs in most restaurants, we expect more bang for our buck. For food products in general, most Canadians tend to measure portions on the fly, meaning if you eat cereal you’re likely to fill your bowl and grab some milk as opposed to reading the label to see what the actual portion size is. In many cases, the nutritional information label will list a portion size that’s much smaller than what you’ve been consuming in one sitting.
There’s a lot you can do to fix this problem. I found an article on Australia’s Huffington Post that provides “8 doable tips” to help with portion control. Rather than list them all in detail, I’ll let you click the link and give the article a read. It’s quite good, but the tips include simple things like drinking water prior to eating a meal, properly measuring out carbs and proteins, using the same plates and bowls consistently for frame of reference and eating slowly. There are more tips in the article.
For those who have Diabetes, portion control is critical because we need to count all the carbs we ingest and calculate the amount on insulin we need to take to counter them. Most Diabetics would be prone to saying, “But Shawn, it doesn’t matter how many carbs we eat, so long as we take the required insulin for it…” First of all, you may be right. But secondly, it’s not just about the carb versus insulin consideration. It’s the fact that overinflated portions can lead to unnecessary eating, weight gain and health issues.
You don’t need to keep eating until you’re stuffed. I know I’m guilty of this one myself. If we make a pizza and I earmark half of it for myself, I’m usually inclined to eat the entire half in one sitting. The nutritional label usually reads 1/3 of the pizza as a single portion, meaning I’ll often wolf down three portions in one meal. And I wonder why I can’t slim down my middle!
Children are lucky in that they still have the instinct to stop eating once they’ve had enough. In fact, that’s why most parents find themselves barking at their kids to finish off their plates. They’ve just gotten full and no longer WANT to eat. But by the time they reach adolescence, that instinct disappears and overeating rears its ugly head, leading to a score of health issues.
As I always say, it’s important to consume any and all things in moderation. But what’s even more important is portion control. You don’t want to skip meals or starve yourself as you’ll be more likely to gorge yourself on unhealthy snack along the way. But as you eat, you should try cutting down your portion sizes. Combined with consulting your health and/or medical practitioner and regular exercise, it’s a sure recipe for success. ☯