By Rachel Berman RD, Director of Nutrition at CalorieCount.com
More than 1 in 3 adults in the United States are currently obese, which comes along with a myriad of health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease. But what’s to blame for the obesity epidemic? Too much fat? Sugar? Fast food? While all of these factors should be taken into account, increasing portion sizes are a huge part of the equation. We just eat too much and are not moving enough.
Having a visual representation of what you should eat at a meal can be very helpful to making a game-time decision when dining out or when prepping at home. In 2011, the USDA released MyPlate as a guide to offer up these key messages: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, split the other half into whole grains and lean protein, choose low-fat dairy. While you don’t need to eat all the food groups at each meal, having a balance can help you feel more satisfied and provide the nutrients you need.
Unfortunately over the years, we’ve developed portion distortion even when it comes to making nutritious food choices. About 20 years ago, the diameter of a bagel was 3 inches, costing you 140 calories. Now a standard bagel is around 5-6 inches, doubling the calories and carbohydrates consumed in one sitting. When it comes to serving sizes, you can use this infographic (http://caloriecount.about.com/food/infographic) to compare your favorite foods to objects so you can eyeball portions and stick within your limits. For example, a bagel 3 inches in diameter is equivalent to the size of a hockey puck, a 3-ounce serving of meat is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards, and a piece of fruit should be the size of a baseball.
Every individual needs a different amount of calories based on their height, weight, age, sex, activity level, and more. To figure out how many calories you need every day, and how servings from each food group fit into the equation, you can utilize an online tool (http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/calories-goal.php) or mobile application (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/calorie-counter-by-caloriecount/id367018196?mt=8) such as those provided by Calorie Count.