Healthy Holiday Portions

Everyone overeats during the December holiday season. Admit it, and stop beating yourself up about it. Office parties, school parties, gift parties, and visiting with friends and family who you only see at holiday times tempts all of us to eat more than we would normally eat at a meal - and tempts us to eat more sweets than we normally treat ourselves to during the rest of the year.

Don't be a party-pooper and don't say no to the wonderfully fun holiday foods and sweets, just eat smaller portions and if you are hungry in an hour or two, go back for more. Nothing makes Granny or Aunt Mabel happier than people wanting seconds.

By all means, do say NO to anything with the diet sweeteners in them. You don't want to feel ill, angry, or depressed during these special holiday get-togethers.

Portions DO Matter: The size of your meals DOES matter, at special holiday times and all year long. Did you know that the average consumer today eats almost twice the portions of food as they did 20 years ago? The marketing of artificial sweeteners has been a huge contributing factor to a change in the way people look at their meals.

Jean Weininger from the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "Studies have shown that people who use artificial sweeteners don't necessarily reduce their consumption of sugar--or their total calorie intake. Having a diet soda makes it okay to eat a double cheeseburger and a chocolate mousse pie."

So, okay, at Granny's Christmas dinner, you will probably be tempted to overeat her roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade rolls with lots of butter, and her steamy apple pie with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. But, like I said, eat smaller portions at one sitting, and if you are hungry in an hour or two, go back for more. She won't mind, believe me.

Instead of loading up on diet products to justify your overeating, try cutting your portions of real food in half. Dr. Kristine Clark, RD, director of sports nutrition, Pennsylvania State University suggests: "Eat what you want, but eat half. Leave food on your plate--there is no such thing as a 'Clean Plate Club!'" She emphasizes more physical activity on a daily basis along with modifying the portions of your foods and beverages. "This should break the cycle of weight gain," she says.

Super-Size It! A single 20-ounce bottle of soda is actually 2 1/2 servings. In America, muffins are the size of small cakes. Care for a large order of French fries with that double cheeseburger? It's just a few cents more to super-size that order. That's a third of the total calories you should eat in one day! But do people resist the fries? Not usually. They order a large diet cola to justify the difference.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are eating 300 more calories a day and men 168 more calories than twenty years ago. As any nutritionist will tell you, all it takes is 100 extra calories a day to gain ten pounds a year. To work off those one hundred calories, you must walk 25 minutes every day.

After eating a large slice of Granny's Christmas pie, all you want to do is take a nap!

In Sting's first book, "Broken Music," he writes about the first time he came to New York City. On a limited budget (boy, that was a long time ago!), he ordered a salad thinking this would be mere rabbit food, yet it was all he could afford. When the salad arrived at his table he was amazed at how large it was, and commented in his book that one of the first impressions he had about America was how much food we ate and how much larger the portions were compared to Europeans'.

Many experts feel Americans overeat because much of the food that makes up the American diet is inexpensive, dense with the taste of "fat" calories, and highly processed, so again, the food isn't satisfying, so we eat more to try to feel full. We know this isn't the case with Granny's Christmas dinner, but stay with me here...

Accurately estimating food portions can be difficult if you are dieting or hungry, or eating at Granny's. Here are some tips on how to control your portions at those special holiday meals, and all throughout the year.

Food Portions: This chart makes measuring simple and helps you estimate your portions correctly.

One teaspoon (5 ml) equals
about the size of the top half of your thumb

One ounce (28 g) equals
approximately a one-inch cube of cheese equals the volume of four stacked diced
a slice of cheese is about the size of a 3 1/2-inch computer CD/DVD
a chunk of cheese is about as thick as two dominoes or one handful (palm) of nuts

Two ounces (57 g) equals
one small chicken leg or thigh
1/2 cup of cottage cheese or tuna

Three ounces (85 g) equals
one serving of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards (meat exchanges)
1/2 of whole chicken breast
one medium pork chop
one small hamburger
unbreaded fish fillet

1/2 cup (118 ml) equals
fruit or vegetables that can fit in the palm of your hand, or equal the volume of a tennis ball

1 cup (236 ml) equals
the size of a woman's fist
breakfast cereal goes halfway up the side of a standard cereal bowl
broccoli is about the size of a light bulb


One medium apple equals
the size of a tennis ball

This article is an excerpt from my book Splenda®: Is It Safe or Not?

Happy Holiday Eating!


Posted December 2009 | Permanent Link

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