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It's not just 'The What', but also 'The How Much'

posted Nov 24, 2014, 6:03 AM by   [ updated Nov 24, 2014, 6:06 AM ]
As we head into this Thanksgiving week and the holiday season, we will be bombarded with holiday parties, meals and informal gatherings that cause many of us to struggle with maintaining our weight and active lifestyles. Indulgent foods, calorie-filled beverages and large meals can be hard to navigate. This article is designed to help us all be mindful of not only what we are eating, but also how much.  By sticking to smaller portions of your favorite holiday foods, you can enjoy yourself and not lose sight of your goals.

No matter what you are eating, how much counts more than you may think. Whether we're eliminating fat, carbohydrates, meat, or anything else, our attitudes toward nutrition and health have historically been 'all-or-nothing'. Thankfully, we are beginning to see foods as a sum of their ingredients and our eating patterns as a sum of our food choices. Because, really, a nut is so much more than just 'fat' and whole grains are so much more than just 'carbs'. Now that we are scanning ingredient lists more thoroughly than ever, it is important to not lose site of the Nutrition Facts panel (which includes serving sizes!), located just above those ingredients. What you put into your body matters...but how much you're putting in maters, too.

If a food item has a Nutrition Facts panel, use it! Look at the recommended serving size, and just try serving yourself only that much. Then, put the rest of the package away.

If a food item does not have a Nutrition Facts panel, use these recommended serving sizes for reference:
  • Fruit: 1 medium whole fruit, 1/2 cup cooked/canned (about the size of a tennis ball), 1 cup fresh sliced or cut (about the size of your fist), 1/4 cup dried (1 cupped handful)
  • Vegetables: 1/2 cup cooked/canned (about the size of a tennis ball), 1 cup raw (about the size of your fist)
  • Protein: 4 oz lean animal protein or tofu (about the size of your palm or a deck of cards), 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils (about the size of a tennis ball), 1 egg, 2 tablespoons nut butter (about the size of your thumb or a golf ball)
  • Dairy: 1 cup low fat or fat free milk, 4-6oz low fat or fat free yogurt (the size of an individual container), 1/2 cup low fat or fat free cottage cheese (about the size of a tennis ball), 1 oz cheese (4 dice-sized cheese cubes or 1 sandwich-style slice
  • Grain: 1 slice bread (Watch out! Some bread slices are huge! Bread should be about the size of a CD or able to easily fit into a zip-top sandwich sized storage bag. If it won't fit in the bag, it's more than 1 serving, so consider slicing it in half and making your whole sandwich on the 1 over-sized slice.), 1/2 cup cooked grain (rice, pasta, barley, oatmeal) (about the size of a tennis ball), 1 small tortilla (taco-sized), 3 cups popped popcorn (try adding olive oil and garlic powder instead of salt and butter) (one mini-bag = one serving), ~1 cup dry cold cereal (check nutrition facts panel), ~5-7 crackers (check nutrition facts panel)
  • Oils: 1-2 tablespoon salad dressings (about the size of a shot glass), 1 oz nuts (1 cupped handful), 1/2 medium avocado, 4 large olives, 2 tablespoons nut butter (about the size of your thumb or a golf ball), 1-2 teaspoons oil (about the size of your thumb tip)
These recommended serving sizes may seem small, however, when these foods are paired together as part of a balanced meal or snack, along with drinking plenty of water throughout the day, you will walk away feeling full and satisfied. To increase your intake of water, try keeping a full glass or bottle of water at your desk and in your car to remind you to sip throughout the day. Add sliced citrus fruits, pomegranate arils, halved fresh cranberries, or herbs, like mint, to flavor your water without sugar or other additives.

At meal time, aim to have 1/2 of your plate fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 grain. At snacks, include one recommended serving of at least two different food groups. Focus on enjoying what you have served yourself, and reflect on how you feel. The goal is to feel satisfied without feeling full. You may be surprised at how satisfied you can feel with smaller portions.

Give yourself a full 20 minutes after a meal before you go back for more, because it takes our bodies that long to completely recognize satiety. If you are truly still hungry, choose fruits and vegetables or broth-based soups to help you feel full without adding another meal's worth of calories. If you're not hungry enough to choose fruits and vegetables, you probably aren't actually still hungry!

These tips are particularly important as we head into the holiday season. To taste and enjoy all of your favorite foods, remember to stay hydrated and to keep portions small and your plate balanced.

These same principles can be applied to the buffet-style dining in your ILC Cafe. If you are more of a visual-thinker, check out our 'What's an Ounce' graphic that includes photos of our food and states the recommended serving sizes.