Is Portion Distortion Threatening Our Health?

Hi Everyone!  When my daughter and I visited Japan a few years ago, we ate in a restaurant and ordered food we knew, spaghetti.  When we received our meal, we honestly were surprised.  The portion was so small to us that it looked like an appetizer.  Ironically, a couple with a child around 6 or 7 were all sharing the same meal (one plate) that each of us had ordered.

Portion Distortion

We live in a society that values the outsize. We are exposed to outsize personalities during the election cycle, we see outsize limos ferrying the rich and famous to important appointments and we see ever larger aircraft flying between cities across the globe. In every aspect of our lives we have accepted the mantra that ‘bigger is better’.

111122BagelPortion_cropSmallMany of our food choices reflect this – we have fast food burgers that base their advertising promise around the word ‘big’.

We buy frozen ready to eat meals that loudly trumpet that they have bigger portions for the ‘hungry’ diner. Our restaurants offer all you can eat buffets at low, low prices. Jumbo packaging allows us to enjoy more snack food in a single sitting than ever before.

But society is slowly beginning to recognize that our addiction to oversize portions of food is leading to a nation plagued by obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Michelle Obama Food Plate

Recognizing this, a new movement towards portion control has been gathering momentum over the past decade, with support from some very public figures such as First Lady Michelle Obama.myplate_slider_grain_0

Mrs Obama has taken particular interest in the growing epidemic of obesity that is affecting the nation’s children and has recommended that portion control be employed as a way of combating this growing problem.

The approach has been called ‘the portion control plate‘. The portion control plate is a diagrammatic approach which illustrates what proportion of a particular food group should appear on a child’s plate in order for them to enjoy a healthy diet.

The portions of protein, grains, fruits and vegetables is shown (with a side order of diary). The website also recommends smaller portions and gives some simple guidelines on how to judge how much of a particular food you actually need. Additional simple advice including the use of smaller plates and serving dishes to control portions is also provided.

This is good solid advice and the approach of reducing calorific intake through the use of smaller serving dishes is gaining traction across the nation.

Using Your Hands To Measure

In another approach those seeking to control the portions of food that they consume are encouraged to use their hands as reliable guidelines to how much of a particular food type to consume.handservings

The guide recommends that each meal should consist of the following:

1. Protein that fits into the palm of the hand.
2. A vegetable portion the size of a fist.
3. Carbohydrates that can be held in a cupped hand.
4. A fat portion the size of your thumb.

The advantages of this system are obvious. It eliminates the fiddly and time consuming (and frankly irritating) process of using weights and measures to determine how much of a particular food group we should be consuming during each meal. It also means that the amount of each food type consumed is appropriate to the body size of the person who will be doing the eating – smaller hands = smaller portions. Of course some common sense may be required if you have very small or very large hands.

Portion Control Lunch Boxes

bentoboxFor many people the danger meal of the day is lunch – especially if you spend time at an office.

Often the urge to simply grab something from a food truck or fast food food restaurant is simply overwhelming.

For many an overweight office worker salvation has come in the form of home made Bento Boxes.

Using a Bento Box forces the person packing the meal to concentrate on portion size. There is only so much that you can fit into a small box. Keeping the ideal proportions of protein, grains etc in mind the use of a Bento Box can drastically reduce portion sizes and therefore curb the intake of excess calories.

Next Steps

Portion control is an essential approach to reducing the sheer volume of what we as a society are beginning to view as the norm at every meal. Rather than living a life governed by the mantra of ‘Supersize me’ we need to take a more (literally) measured approach to our meals – before a bad situation simply spirals out of control.

I plan on purchasing bento lunch boxes and taking my lunch to work at least 3 times a week.  This will save me money as well as put me in control of my diet.

Are you with me?


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