Weekly Extension Educators' Columns
Current Column by Jackie Baumann
Purdue Extension HHS Educator- 05/13/2013
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Why Do We Eat So Much?
Perhaps you are a long time member of the ‘clean plate club’ or maybe you are a victim of ‘portion distortion’. Whatever the reason, it is a fact that too many Americans eat too much.
Health experts have been telling us for years that the reason people are overweight is because they are eating too many calories and not exercising enough. That seems simple enough. However, what isn’t so simple is the many less obvious ways we have gradually become more accustomed to eating more without even realizing it.
If you compared the typical serving size of a variety of foods from 25 years ago to what is frequently served today, you might be shocked to see that what you thought was a great bargain in today’s super-size or value-sized portion can result in two, three or even four times the calories of the earlier portion size. Some examples: a muffin 25 years ago was 1.5 ounces and 205 calories compared to today-4 ounces and 500 calories; a soda 25 years ago was 6.5 ounces and 85 calories, compared to a 20 ounce bottle today at 250 calories. If you consume just two or three of the larger sized portions each day, it could easily add up to hundreds of extra calories each day.
Restaurants serve all people the same (usually very large) portions. A 6 foot 5 inch young, active, male may need large portions, but most people don’t. However, when faced with a large amount of food, most people will clean their plates or eat most of it, whether they need that much food or not. Studies have shown that the larger the portion size served, the more people eat.
Here are some tips for portion control:
- Eat smaller meals more frequently to help control your intake.
- Split meals. When dining out, share an entrée, and start with a salad or cup of soup each, or you might be able to share a dessert after sharing a meal. If you don’t have someone to share with, ask the server to bring a to-go box when serving the meal so you can cut your meal in half before you begin to eat.
- Learn the appropriate portion size that is right for you. Pay attention to what your meals look like. Use plates that fit the portions. Instead of big platters and deep bowls, use smaller, portion-controlled serving dishes. Once you learn what’s right for you, you can eat out anywhere, and know if you’re being served more than you need. Memorize what an 8 ounce glass looks like, so that when you’re faced with an oversized portion, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to finish it.
- Before eating, assess your hunger. Most people eat because it’s time to eat, not because they’re hungry. We live in a world that runs by the clock, but you are the master of your internal cues. Stop when you’ve eaten half of what’s on your plate. Are you full yet? If yes, then stop.
- Slow down. For a fun exercise, ask your family to eat slowly. Make it a contest. Eating slowly gives your stomach a chance to catch up to your brain, and register fullness. Research shows that the faster you eat, the more you eat.
- Serve all dressings on the side, whether you are eating at home or out. The dressing can make a healthy salad high in fat and calories. Serve the salad dressed with flavorful balsamic or wine vinegar and a little olive oil: use your fork to spear the salad, and just dip a corner into dressing.
- Check your portion perception. Measure the amount of food you’re eating. And then determine how many servings you’ve eaten. For example, cereal. Pour your usual amount of cereal into your bowl, but before you add the milk, measure the cereal. Are you eating one serving (read the nutrition facts label to see the amount listed as one serving; generally ¾ to 1 cup). How much milk are you adding? Try the same exercise on rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruit.
- Don’t serve food “family style”, except for salad and vegetables. Keep the meat or protein and the starch in the kitchen, and serve individual portions. Put a big bowl of salad and vegetables on the table for those who want seconds.
- Read labels on the food that you buy. Read the serving size first. That way you’ll be able to understand all the numbers that follow. If there is one serving in the package, then all the numbers—the calories, grams of fat, protein, sugar, carbohydrate—are relevant to the contents of that one package. If there is more than one serving, you need to multiply all those numbers out.
Taking care of yourself and making sure that you aren’t eating too much can be confusing or difficult, but it is also important. Consuming as little as 100 extra calories per day can add up to a gain of one pound per month. Or, decreasing what you are currently consuming by 100 calories a day could result in a weight loss of 10 to 12 pounds in a year.
For more information on topics related to food safety, nutrition and health, contact the Purdue Extension Service at 765-653-8411
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May 13 – Ext. Homemaker Leader Lesson 7 p.m. “Personal Safety” will be presented by Tom Sutherlin of
The Greencastle Police Department at 7 p.m. in the Extension Classroom.
May 15 – Last possible day to sign up for 4-H Camp if space available
May 19 - Master Gardener Plant Swap – Kroger parking lot. Public welcome
June 3 – Putnam County Fair Board Meeting 7:30 p.m. at Fairgrounds
June 12-14 Home and Family Conference at Purdue University