Size matters. I like to think that I can eat as much as I want as long as I eat healthy, but that’s no longer working for me. I read the book The Portion Teller by Lisa R. Young, Ph.D, R.D. and it is clear that how much we eat is much more important than what we eat.
I find serving sizes, portions and the USDA food pyramid confusing. Apparently I’m not the only one. Dr. Young found that even nutrition experts have a difficult time estimating portion sizes of food. It’s no wonder because there are three federal standards for serving sizes – the USDA Food Guide, the FDA food labels, and the USDA Nutrient Database. This means that the “serving size” on the nutrition facts label does not correlate with the USDA food pyramid recommended serving. Take for example, a standard bagel. The nutrition label on a bag of bagels lists 1 bagel as 1 serving. The USDA food guide recommends 6 grain servings a day. This means you can have 6 bagels a day, right? Wrong! The average bagel is 6 servings! This means that 1 measly bagel serves as all 6 of your grain servings for the day.
If that wasn’t confusing enough portions have increased significantly over the years, making it increasingly difficult to understand how much we are being served when dining out. Take for example the fact that in 1990 McDonalds increased the weight of Super Size fires by nearly one ounce and downgraded the former Super-Size to a Large, and the old size Large became a medium. Or the fact that most deli sandwiches contain 1 pound of meat, which is three days’ worth of meat recommended by the USDA.
I bought a food scale on Amazon to help me better understand my portions and calorie intake. I love the food scale that I bought because it not only tells me how much my food weighs, but it has an internal database of foods that tells me how many calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar and sodium my food has.
I was making sweet potato fries last night, so I pulled out the scale to measure my two sweet potatoes. I was shocked at the difference in calories! I knew that one sweet potato was larger than the other, but I didn’t realize how much larger and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed the calories.
Take a look at the picture in my post to see the difference in the size of the potatoes and review this chart below:
|Large Sweet Potato||Small Sweet Potato|
|476 grams||196 grams|
|409 calories||169 calories|
|262 sodium||108 sodium|
|14 grams fiber||6 grams fiber|
|20 grams sugar||8 grams sugar|
|7 grams protein||3 grams protein|
If I had not used the scale to measure those two potatoes, I may have selected the larger one (hey sweet potatoes are healthy, right?) and not thought twice about it. But, having the glaring difference in calories in front of me helps me choose the smaller option.
It’s not realistic to bring a food scale with you at restaurants or measure all of your food. Not to worry, there are some simple tips to help you estimate portion sizes without whipping out a scale. Look for that post from me next week. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Do you measure your food? How do you feel about monitoring portions? I’d love to hear from you!