I remember sitting down for my first Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. and marveling at the feast before me. I ate a lot that day. Fifteen years later, being a much more aware and informed consumer, I am amazed and somewhat horrified at how much I gorged that day. Now I know better, and I usually eat what my body needs.
So how much should you eat at a meal? Of course, it varies by activity level, age, gender, ethnicity, race, and so much more, but one can have ballpark estimates for what are “normal” serving sizes of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods.
Let's take a little quiz. If you know the answers, you're more aware of average serving sizes than most people!
A half-pound container of yogurt has how many approximate servings?
A 16-ounce bottle of orange juice has how many approximate servings?
Is a half-pound of grilled turkey or chicken the recommended serving for 2 adults at a meal?
Check the answers below.
If you didn't get them right, don't beat yourself up. Most people tend to eat the food placed in front of them without thinking about the quantity of food they’re consuming. When you buy that chocolate bar, bag of chips, or bottle of apple juice and finish the entire thing – because that’s what you’ve been conditioned to do – you’re probably having more than one serving.
What makes things even trickier is when you go out to eat or order delivery: The “portion” size you receive is usually far from a serving size. In the past few decades, portion sizes have become bigger, which has adversely affected our perception of what a serving size is.
So how can we eat more nutritious food with more awareness, without getting totally lost in the maze of portion size versus serving size versus calories?
The perils of super-sizing
Eating too much can wreak havoc in the body:
Too much food at one time can cause indigestion, bloating, and stomach upset.
Overeating releases a surge of glucose into your blood stream. Your pancreas has to work overtime, pumping insulin through the body to absorb all that extra glucose, which can make you feel weak and irritable and make you prone to headaches.
When your blood sugar levels then plummet, you experience wicked cravings for more food – specifically, simple carbohydrates (potatoes, white bread, sugary drinks, or sweets). And research has found that immune system function is affected for at least five hours after consuming large amounts of simple carbohydrates.
Eating too much of the wrong things (fast foods, packaged/processed foods, fried foods, refined foods) can lead to undesirable weight gain because we consume too much food, much of which is unhealthy and void of nutrition.
How to avoid overeating
Don’t over order. Consider starting with a salad, soup, or appetizer. If you still feel hungry, order an entree, but only eat half, and take the rest home for another meal. You might also consider sharing an entrée with someone.
Chew thoroughly (saliva breaks down food and makes the digestion process easier on your stomach and small intestine). Put your fork or spoon down between bites – take time to enjoy the taste, texture, flavors, and aromas of your food. Eating slower gives your brain time to register that you’re full so you don't overeat.
Drink plenty of water. Often we mistake thirst for hunger. Have a glass of water before every meal and snack. This will help you make it a habit of drinking water consciously 3-4 times a day.
Choose high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, which keep you feeling full and energized.
Carry your own snacks when you go shopping, watch a movie, etc. Buy snack-sized containers, and fill them with a handful of nuts, dried fruits, or seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower.
Curious about how some easy changes, such as chewing your food more thoroughly, can make a big difference in your health? Want help making smarter food choices? Let’s talk! Schedule a complimentary health coaching consultation with me today – or pass this offer on to someone you care about!
a) 1 b) 2 c) Yes