Growing up, you probably remember being told that you couldn't leave the dinner table until you had cleaned your plate. "There are starving children all around the world who would be happy to have a meal," you would hear your mother say. And mom was right. There is absolutely no reason why we should be wasteful.
The problem with this mindset, however, is that when it comes to weight management, eating all of the food put in front of you isn't necessarily the right thing to do. And when you are trying to lose weight, the amount of food you eat is often more important than the kinds of foods you actually choose. In other words, even too much of a good thing is bad. In fact, the most-forgotten weight loss strategy is often portion control!
But the bigger issue here is that the average portion size of the foods we buy today has increased significantly. Americans are eating a lot more food than we think.
You're probably wondering how we got so far off track. Well, restaurants and other food manufacturers are the biggest culprits when it comes to marketing over-sized portions. In a study entitled, "The Contribution of Expanding Portion Sizes to the US Obesity Epidemic" by Lisa R. Young (PhD, RD) and Marion Nestle (PhD, MPH), the average serving size started to increase in the 1970s with a sharp increase during the 1980s. The average American's body weight increased proportionately. They concluded that the obesity epidemic in this country is caused largely in part to excess energy consumption, or overeating.
The study also found that most food portions exceeded FDA and USDA standard sizes. Here are some of the worst offenders: cookies (700 percent), cooked pasta (480 percent), muffins (333 percent), steaks (224 percent), and bagels (195 percent). At the time the study was conducted, french fries, hamburgers, and soda were all two to five times larger than their original serving sizes. To be competitive, even frozen meals advertise larger portions in an attempt to convey value to the consumer. Take a note here that in order for food producers to sell more food at the same or lower price, the quality of the ingredients have likely been sacrificed, hence the production and use of genetically-modified GMO ingredients.
All is not lost. If you prepare most of your meals at home using high-quality ingredients in the right proportions, you can achieve your weight-loss goals. Try the Web MD Portion Size Plate tool to get a good idea of what a good serving size is for some of your favorite healthy foods. And when you eat out, order smaller portions (if possible), take half of your meal home for tomorrow, or split your meal with a friend. That way, you can stay healthy, maintain your weight, and make mom happy all in one fell swoop!