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Portions from the Eyes of a Beginner

With this Sunday touted as the official end to the ‘Eating Season’, Portion Control has been weighing heavily on our minds. Starting Monday, many people will begin the yearly ritual of ‘dieting’ to remove the extra pounds they accumulated during the holidays before swimsuit season hits in just a few short months. For some they’ll choose to go it alone and find an online program or book that can guide their healthier eating choices, others will seek professional help in person through dietitians, nutritionists, weight coaches, etc. No matter the method they choose, most have the same goal; to lose weight and be healthy. We received a note from a longtime friend of NCES who has started their journey of losing some extra pounds sharing their feelings on what they’ve learning about portion control. Odds are, many of your patients are feeling this very same way!

“I’ve lost a handful of pounds, slowly and safely in the past month, learning more and more about healthy eating in the process. The most eye opening fact, however, was the difference in the amount of food I ate, rather than the content. Don’t get me wrong, a deep fried Twinkie is still a deep fried Twinkie, and there’s really no way to logically fit that into a diet, no matter how you try to sneak it in. But, say a nice cheeseburger and fries; that’s something you can enjoy, even on a diet. It’s size that really matters.

The hardest thing to wrap my head around when I started this diet, is that when I’m looking at that delicious, mouth-watering cheeseburger, and those fresh, salty fries, I’m actually seeing double; two servings. What I had to do was learn to immediately cut that burger in half, stash it (and half the fries) into a to-go container, and then begin my meal, savoring each saucy, delectable bite. Portions, or rather, what we put on our plates, have gotten ridiculously inflated over the past several decades of American dining. At any given restaurant, you’re usually given two servings on one plate at a time. So when you finish eating, it was only one plate of pancakes and hash browns, when in fact, you ate enough for two meals, or more.”

So, next time you meet with a client who is struggling with their weight loss program, hopefully this excerpt can help you to better understand where they’re struggling and why eating in America today makes it hard for us to be healthy. Or, if you’re someone who is struggling with portion control yourself, know that you’re not alone. If you feel exactly like our reader, you’re normal! Understanding and adhering to appropriate portions takes training. So, for many clients, the training is exactly where to start. NCES offers many products including portion plates, educational tear pads and food models to aid in teaching about portions at www.NCEScatalog.com. Feel free to browse the site, or you can call our on-site dietitian at 877.NCES.BOOKS for help shopping for the perfect product for you.

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Get Your Portions in Control

Portions, Portions, Portions! If you are plugged in to nutrition at all, you probably read a different article about portions every day. But, do you pay attention? Or, for you dietitians, do you struggle to get your clients to pay attention? Portions are a very important part of any diet. However, for most of the fad diets that exist today, it’s the element that is given the least amount of attention. Or, for many, the expectations on portions are so completely unrealistic that it’s impossible to continue to practice what you’ve learned once you’ve reached your goal weight and stop ‘dieting’ in the literal sense of the word.

Between the common plate sizes in America growing as fast as our waistlines and restaurant portion sizes increasing in size to try to get ahead in their competitive market, we’re paying the price with rising obesity and diabetes rates. Did you know that the average household dinner plate has grown to 12 inches? Yet the appropriate size is 9 inches. So, here’s a tip that can make bringing your portions back under control very simple: instead of serving dinner on your dinner plates, serve them on your smaller salad plates. These plates present a much more realistic size for serving up correct portions for your family. You’ll be amazed at how satisfied you can be when you eat your dinner on these smaller plates. You’ll still get the satisfaction of cleaning your plate. However, you most likely won’t have eaten larger portions than you should.

So, we’ve made it easier to serve the correct portion sizes at home, now what are you supposed to do when you’re out to eat? I’m sure you’ve heard this tip before; cut your meal in half and put it in a take-out box before you even begin your meal. This is a great tip and can really help you control your portion sizes when eating out. But, it’s not always a great “across the board” kind of rule. There are some restaurants that serve appropriate portions. So, how are you supposed to gauge your portion size here? (BTW – This tip is great at any restaurant… whether you think the portion sizes are correct or not) Start by asking the server to bring an empty salad plate out with your meal. When you get the salad plate, visualize the MyPlate image sitting on your plate. Begin moving the meal from your dinner plate over to the salad plate, making sure to consider your portions in reference to MyPlate. By doing this, you’re fixing two big problems in restaurant servings; 1) the size of plate that your food is served on, and 2) the skewed proportions of grains and protein compared to fruits and vegetables served. Once your salad plate is full and closely reflects MyPlate, then you know you’ve got a correctly portioned meal while you’re out to eat. Take the rest and set it aside or put it in a to-go box to enjoy later.

Don’t feel like guessing? NCES has created Right-Size Portion Plates for Kids and Adults. So, whether you’re looking to take control of your own health or your entire family, we’ve got the plate for you! These plates are great for use at home. Or, they can be used as an easier tool than the salad plate while you’re out to eat. Use the links above to view each plate.

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Don’t Let National Nutrition Month End

It’s hard to believe, but March is coming to an end! Another National Nutrition Month is wrapping up. But, as usual, that doesn’t mean that all the lessons learned this month should be pushed aside and forgotten. This year, you learned how to “Get Your Plate in Shape”. Our plates are a big part of our daily lives. For most of us, we sit down to a plate of food an average of three times per day. For those with hectic schedules, it may be less. And, for those that focus on 5-6 well-balanced meals, it’s even more. So, it’s easy to see why learning to get our plates in shape is vital to our everyday success.

Here at NCES, we like to provide tools that make staying healthy easier for you. So, here are a few takeaway lessons to remember, even after National Nutrition Month comes to an end.

  1. 1.       Fill your plate with foods from all of the food groups.  For the average person, our bodies require foods from all of the food groups to remain healthy. The key is to remember moderation; picture the USDA MyPlate when filling your plate, doing your best to match the two.
  2. 2.       Always remember portion control. We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to food. It’s important not to deny yourself those indulgences and enjoy them occasionally. However, remember not to go overboard and don’t indulge all the time.
  3. 3.       Don’t underestimate the power of vegetables. Vegetables contain a variety of nutrients that are great for our bodies. Not to mention, they are a great way to fill up our stomachs without packing in extra fat and calories. So, be sure to make fresh vegetables a big part of your everyday diet.

Getting your plate in shape will require some effort on your part. You’ll have to remember to make conscious decisions about the foods you are filling your plate with. However, it only takes 21 days to form a habit. So, if you set some goals and push yourself to achieve them for 21 days, in just three weeks, it will be a habit.

In need of a kickstart? NCES offers extremely useful Right-Sized Portion Plate for both Adults and Kids. Also, fresh off the press are our new MyPlacemats for Kids. They come in sets of 50. So, they are great for taking to restaurants, as well as the houses of family & friends so your kids can think healthy while they are enjoying their meals. Be sure to check these great tools out today!

What did you learn during National Nutrition Month 2012? Did you make any commitments to yourself? How did it go, were you able to keep your commitments? Leave your comments here on the blog, or visit our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Holiday Portion Control: Main Dishes

Eating during the holidays can be tough if you’re trying to stay on a diet, or if you’re worried about
eating too much. Since portion sizes have gotten out of control in the past couple of decades, it
can be hard to judge how much you should be eating. When looking at the following tables, be
sure to remember to eat the proper amounts of servings, as well as the proper serving sizes. Visit
www.MyPyramid.gov for more information on a balanced diet and good nutrition.

Main Dishes

Main dishes usually contain meat or protein, and often have bread or pasta included with them as well.
Main dishes will normally contain the most calories out of your entire meal. Make sure you get enough
of these, since so much time and effort are being put into them. However, don’t overdo it. Here’s what
considered the standard serving size of any of these dishes:

Main Dish

Main Dish Serving Size Everyday Equivalent
Ham 3 oz. Computer Mouse
Turkey
Prime Rib
Beef Tenderloin
Lasagna 1 cup Baseball
Spaghetti (Noodles) 1 cup Baseball
Spaghetti (Sauce ½ cup ½ Baseball
Seafood Pasta ½ cup ½ Baseball
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The Right Size at the Right Time

Since July is National Community Health Awareness Month, we decided to offer some healthy advice that the whole community can use. And the topic this week is: Right-Sizing Your Portions.
In the past two decades or so, portion sizes have doubled when it comes to what finds its way onto our plates. It makes sense then that obesity is on the rise. Having the right sizes of portions on your plate is one of the first and easiest ways to begin living a healthier lifestyle.
When it comes to things like pizza, did you realize that a slice is considered a single serving in most cases? So when you’re looking at nutrition information for your pizza, make sure to count up how many slices you’re actually eating. The numbers add up fast, don’t they?
Instead of drinking a 32oz soda, the actual serving size you should be drinking is 12oz. Having a diet soda versus a regular wouldn’t hurt either.
Nearly every restaurant over-serves their customers, which isn’t really anything you’d find yourself complaining about. However, since these over-sized portions are there, they tend to get eaten anyway. When you go to a restaurant, try having half or your order boxed up right away, this way you can be sure that you won’t overeat, and you’ll be able to get two meals for the price of one.
It’s difficult to train oneself to eat smaller portions when much of our life has been different in that regard, but with a little control, and a lot less food, you’ll notice that your body will adjust itself accordingly. And your waistline will as well.
For a better look into what portions should look like, check out our “Right-Size Your Portions” handouts and poster online at http://www.ncescatalog.com, or in our catalog in the Teaching Aids section.