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Archive for January, 2012

Rightsize your waist and your plate

Rightsize your Plate and your Waist: Portion control for the New Year.

Practicing portion control is one of the most difficult tasks facing anyone who eats out or even eats in these days. Look around you and everything is supersized. And not just fast food. Bagels, muffins, steaks, even frozen dinners have grown in size. I tracked the history of portion sizes increasing since the 20th century and found that portions are much much bigger than they were in the past, 2-5 times bigger to be exact. And so are people! No surprise. As I wrote in The Portion Teller Plan and in numerous articles, large portions contribute to weight gain because large portions contain more calories than small portions. Simple as it sounds, so many clients that I counsel don’t seem to apply logic to the equation. We know that if a 64-oz double Gulp soda is eight times bigger than a standard 100 calorie 8-oz soda, it should contain 8 times the calories. Yes, the Double Gulp contains 800 calories. Simple math?  Yes. But… if WE drink it, we think, how can a soda possibly have so many calories?

Our plates have increased, so have our mugs, glasses, and wine goblets. Our cabinets and  dishwashers are now larger to accommodate our satellite-sized dishes. And, car seats for our kids, who are now pudgier than ever, have also increased. And even caskets have become supersized!

Many of us don’t understand what a healthy portion is, and for good reason. A pasta portion in a restaurant is easily 3 cups, and many steaks are at least a pound. That is much too much food. The problem is that we’ve gotten used to these jumbo portion sizes and we think that a “portion” is whatever is put in front of us.

Getting used to normal-sized portions is not an easy task. Here are some tips:

Practice plate control. For starters, try eating off of plates your grandmother used. Next, change your expectation. Restaurants are in business to sell food, and lots of it. It is time to shift our perspective on what a reasonable amount of food is. If you use a smaller plate, you will probably begin to scale back on your portion.

Fill up on fruits and veggies. We want to scale back on our meat and potato portions and increase our intake of veggies. An easy trick is to fill half your plate with veggies. One quarter of your plate protein (meat, fish, poultry, tofu) and one quarter healthy starch (brown rice, quinoa, barley).

Buy single-servings when possible. Steer clear of the jumbo bags of chips, cookies, and nuts sold at price warehouse clubs such as Costco. We all love a good bargain, but beware when it comes to buying food. While you may want to stock up on toilet paper or paper towels, when it comes to food, buy smaller servings. Single-serve bags of chips will really help you practice portion control while snacking.

Order a small. In many cases you have a choice between a small, medium, or large. Order the small size whenever possible.

Avoid your triggers. If you can’t stop at one serving of chips, then don’t even start. Choose a treat you CAN control.

Don’t snack out of the bag. Familiarize yourself with the serving size on the food label, pour  yourself one serving, and put the bag away. Practice this for chips, nuts, pretzels and other treats.

Don’t be fooled by health halos. Just because a food is labeled organic or trans fat free doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Calories are still calories.

Skip all-you-can-eat buffets. They may be a bargain for your pocketbook, but not for your health. If you must visit a buffet, do a full lap around the buffet before choosing your selection and wear tight fitting clothes (you’ll probably eat less.)

Share, share, and share. Restaurant portion sizes are huge. Order one main dish and an extra veggie dish or salad and share both. And order one dessert for two or three people and you will still feel satisfied.

Eat like a Parisian. Eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy your company.

Enjoy! Bon Appetit.

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Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

As so many of us know, making—and sticking to–New Year’s resolutions rarely works for the long haul. In fact, we often make the same ones over and over, just to start again next year. It is already mid-January and so many of us have probably already nixed those resolutions. Here’s why instead of making resolutions, I recommend small and simple changes that can be implemented one at a time and that are easy to follow.

Here’s where Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual illustrated by Maira Kalman (Penguin, 2011) comes in.  This wonderful book is an updated version of Pollan’s best seller along with some new rules and terrific illustrations. I have recommended it to many clients who are looking to make simple changes in their eating habits and also to the environment in which they live.

The rules are short and to the point and easy to implement. This updated edition offers some of Pollan’s new favorites. They include:

  • Give Some Thought to Where Your Food Comes From
  • “Order the Small.” (One of my favorites—not just because I am quoted).
  • “If You’re Not Hungry Enough to Eat an Apple, Then You’re Probably Not Hungry”
  • “No Labels on the Table”

Here are other favorites:

  • Eat mostly plants.”
  • “Eat slowly.”
  • “Cook.”
  • “Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.”
  • “If you have the space, buy a freezer”
  • “Avoid foods advertised on TV.”
  • “…Eat less”
  • AND OF COURSE, “Have a glass of wine with dinner.

This book is a must read for anyone who eats and drinks 🙂 !!

Kudos to Michael Pollan and  Maira Kalman.

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New portion-size campaign: Cut your portions. Cut your risk.

Today, the NYC Health Department, very proactive in fighting obesity and other public health issues, launches a new ad campaign– Cut Your Portions. Cut Your Risk.–spotlighting the role of increasing portion sizes and it consequences for obesity and other health problems. The campaign is urging New Yorkers to be more aware of portion sizes when deciding what to eat or drink.

To hit home, this campaign will feature New York City subway posters encouraging New Yorkers to cut their portions to reduce their risk of health problems. The posters will be in English and in Spanish. Here is a sample.

This portion-size campaign is dear to my heart as I have researched the trend toward growing portion sizes over the past 50 years. And the campaign is based, in part, on my work on growing portion sizes and it’s contribution to the obesity epidemic. Serving sizes of most foods available for immediate consumption, including French fries, soft drinks, hamburgers, and baked goods have more than doubled in size—and therefore in the amount of calories they contain–in the past few decades. In many cases, a single meal is so big that it can contain many more calories than most of us need for an entire day. One of the problems with big portions is that we eat more when we are served more!

Here are several academic articles, co-authored with my mentor and NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle, summarizing my research:

I also write about the trend toward growing portion sizes and offer solutions in my book The Portion Teller Plan.

Hopefully, this new campaign, along with NYC DOH’s ongoing requirement that chain restaurants post calorie counts on menu boards, and some of it’s other terrific ad campaigns, will continue to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to make healthier choices and to eat LESS.

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