Portion Size Matters

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I am not one to count calories, fat grams or anything of the like, but that’s because the one thing I do try to stay mindful of is portion size (and only eating enough to feel full). But in today’s “super-sized” society (i.e. the United States) it’s harder than ever to determine if your portion size is even on par or not. Check this out:

According to French Kids Eat Everything, there was “A scientific study in which two researchers (one French, one American) weighed servings of identical meals at McDonald’s restaurants in Paris and Philadelphia. The serving sizes were wildly different: a medium-size serving of fries at McDonald’s in Philadelphia was 72 percent bigger than at McDonald’s in Paris.”

Let’s hope they aren’t charging the same price, ha ha ha. All kidding aside though, what’s up with that? And there’s more:

According to the CDC, over the last 50 years right here in America “The size of a hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces.” And some wonder why “The average American is 26 pounds heavier than in 1950. [And] about one-third of us are overweight or obese and that number is projected to hit nearly 50% by 2030.”


One contributing factor, according to research and Michael Pollan, is that instead of using our internal cues to know when to stop eating most of us “allow external, and usually visual, cues to determine how much we [should] eat.” So many of us are likely not listening to our guts and instead just continuing to eat until our plates are clean, the package is empty, or the TV show is over. When was the last time you left some food on your plate simply because you were starting to feel full? I am the first to admit…it’s easier said than done!

So aside from ensuring I eat a variety of real, whole foods (including full-fat dairy), keeping my portion sizes in check is at the top of my priority list. When our family documented and photographed everything we ate for a week last year there were a lot of comments indicating some of our meals didn’t look like enough food. Is that because people were comparing our plates to the super-sized portions of today or the way things used to be (and still are in France)?

I personally think real food is much more filling than the processed stuff so it doesn’t take as much for me to feel full. Plus when I do overeat, and it does happen occasionally (I am human after all!), it really is not a good feeling. And the other great thing about real food filling you up nicely is that it prevents all those crazy spikes in hunger and energy levels throughout the day that people often experience otherwise. Goodbye afternoon crash!

So don’t be fooled by what society is telling you is the right amount of food…eat what’s right for you. You can always go back for more, and believe it or not it’s okay to feel hungry in-between meals on occasion! Here are some things to try:

  • The next time you’re at a restaurant split an entrée with someone at your table.
  • Prepare your food on an appetizer plate instead of a standard sized dinner plate.
  • Eat more slowly to allow yourself time to feel full before going back for more.
  • Stop eating when you feel full…don’t worry about cleaning your plate or finishing the last bite!

What are your thoughts about today’s portion sizes? How did they get so out of control?

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119 comments to Portion Size Matters

  • There are little changes you can make that will trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more. Like using smaller plates, instead of the 10″ round plate, go for a 6-8″ plate. If you fill the smaller plate and eat it all, your brain thinks you are more. Or, using a plate with a contrasting color to your food. So if you’re eating chicken veggies and potatoes, go for a dark plate, or if you’re eating steak, go for the light colored plate. When you can see how much food is on your plate, you’ll eat less. But when your food and plate are similar in color, you don’t realize just how much food you have. These are great little tips that I’ve adopted…here are more: http://bit.ly/143h1vu

  • Liesel

    I have to laugh every time I hear about how this isn’t enough food regarding one of your posts. I too have a 3rd grader and we pack about the same or slightly less. But that’s appropriate for MY child. That’s the point, what’s appropriate for each child (and staying mindful of NORMAL portion sizing). Of course I would not expect this to be enough for a boy in middle school or high school. And the comments like “really your kids eat that!” I have been very lucky to have a kid that is NOT picky, that said, some kids just are, despite having been exposed to variety etc. (I have a friend who’s daughter had a period of only drinking milk and eating sausage or salami. He son, on the other hand was anxious to try escargot. In the same household … exposed to the same foods … Totally different taste buds.) Let’s look at this from a better perspective … Everyone is different and hopefully parents are in tune with what their child needs. And that’s not a cold Happy Meal with “chicken nuggets”. Yes, apparently a kid in my son’s class has this very often. Luckily, my son is kinds grossed out by it, as I am.

  • Misti

    One idea we came up with that helps with portion control is when the kids want 2nds of something, they wait until a parent is finished to go get it. Often, they snack on the raw veggies from their plate while waiting and eat much less as the feeling of being full hits them! It also has caused them to eat slower since they’re gonna wait anyway.

  • How I envy you… While your lunches look perfectly appropriate for your children, my teenage son does, indeed, require MORE! Especially with after school sports and the fact that he does not get home until after 5p.m. I miss those days of packing his old lunchbox in elementary school. Now I’m racking my brain for ways to get in more food that is not filler but nutritious as well.

  • Marianne

    I am a firm believer that young children are great self regulators when it comes to food. I rarely insist on either of my children finishing their plates. My problem area however, is “dessert”. I do ask that they finish their meals if they would like dessert (and to clarify, dessert doesn’t happen every night and often times is just fresh fruit). Somehow I feel like this forces them to eat more than they would on their own. Any suggestions on the best way to deal with this?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Marianne. This is how I handle dessert nights(and we’ve had our share of pumpkin pie lately): I just make sure that portions are a little smaller (other than veggies), so they aren’t getting over-full. It seems to work. :) ~Amy

  • Lynette

    It does go the other way as well though. I’ve been accused of being an over-eater and that’s a bit frustrating when I eat a healthy (real food) full meal and am legitimately hungry enough for another a couple hours later. I have high metabolism and often feel sick because of not getting enough food. It runs in my family. My children (1 and 3) also eat quite a lot (of real food) and I get many comments about that as well. I never tell them they have to eat everything given to them. We just truly require more food for survival. :)

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