Portion Distortion

September 29, 2016


One day years ago, I was in a smoothie place and spotted a "healthy" cookie that looked too good to pass up.  Hey, Dietitians get the occasional sweet tooth too.  I flipped it over, scanned the ingredients and nutrition facts (not bad!) and happily exchanged my cash for the treat.  After chowing down, I glanced back at the packaging again and reality set in- OOPS.  The cookie was 4 servings, not 1.  I had just housed down over 1,000 calories.  Greaaaat. 


Tricky, tricky, tricky this serving size thing.  Many foods are really misleading.  




Take Triscuits for example.  You sit down to have a snack- some hummus and crackers let’s say.  Just SIX of these crunchy snacks equate to one serving.  Who eats 6 Triscuits?  No one.  It goes back to Lay's old tag line "betcha can't eat just one".  Food manufacturers are banking on this idea- that you won't stop at just one measly serving.  In addition, it’s hard to get filled up on these high carb, relatively empty calorie foods – cereal, granola, crackers, and chips included.  So you just keep eating and the calories begin to take on a life of their own.  


Another snack to watch out for when it comes to serving size is nuts.  Whether it's "a handful" of almonds or a "scoop" of peanut butter, it’s easy to go waaaay overboard here.   Fat-containing foods have 9 calories per gram; carbs and proteins have only 4 calories per gram.  So while I definitely promote higher fat intake with my clients, it’s easy to go nuts with nuts.  Next time you scoop out some peanut butter for that apple, or to add to a smoothie... Measure it out.  One serving is 2 tablespoons, and you just might be doubling or tripling that unintentionally.  




Portion control is so important when it comes to our daily fuel intake.  You can be eating all the right foods –but way too much- and gaining weight!  However, when you get portion control in check, things will fall into place.  I don't think it's necessary to weigh everything that goes into your mouth, but have an idea of how much you are consuming by measuring it out from time to time.  Awareness is key.  




Keep in mind that when you double a serving size, calories and carbohydrate, fat, and protein grams all double as well.  With our Triscuit example, carb grams jump from 20 grams to 40 grams when going from 1 serving to 2.  That’s a lot for 12 crackers.   Instead of housing down 40 or 60 carb grams, try adding some raw veggies into the mix.  Veggies are practically a "free" food group as they are high in vitamins, mineral, and fiber, but low in calories. 




I like food.  I want my clients to be able to enjoy food and not feel limited or restricted.  But there have to be some boundaries.  Start paying attention to the serving sizes you consume and maybe there's room for improvement.  Scratch that.  There's always room for improvement. 

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