You may have learned to ignore wild claims about fad diets, but sometimes it’s hard to understand advice from reliable sources, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid, for example, can be confusing, especially if you forget it’s three dimensional – with height, width, and depth. The base of the pyramid represents a lot more rice, bread, cereal and pasta than you might realize if you view it as a triangle having only height and width.
In addition, keeping up with RDA’s and DRI’s, food groups, and serving sizes is enough to make you toss your hands up in the air or reach for a bag of potato chips.
Picture Your Plate
To show you at a glance how a healthy arrangement of food actually looks on your plate, nutritionists at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) created an eating plan called “The New American Plate”
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans cover two-thirds or more of this plate. That is because a diet based mostly on plant foods lowers your risk of many diseases. Be sure you include hearty helpings of different vegetables and fruits. Do not fill all that space with pasta and whole grain bread.
Meat, fish, poultry, or low-fat dairy foods cover no more than one-third of “The New American Plate”. Stick to a recommended serving of no more than 3 ounces of meat by mixing it with vegetables, grains, and beans in a stir-fry, stew or casserole.
Size up a Simple Serving
What you think you eat and what you really eat may be quite different. A USDA survey compared what people said they ate – with what they really ate. Most underestimated the amounts of some foods and overestimated others.
This confusion probably occurs because people do not understand just how much food a serving really is. To make it clearer, the AICR suggests you measure out standard servings of food sand put them into your usual bowl or plate. One cup is the standard serving of most cereals, for example. You may be surprised at how it looks in your bowl. What you considered one serving may be closer to two.
Pay attention to portion sizes when you eat out, too. Many restaurants have switched from the traditional 10-inch to 12-inch plate, but you don’t have to load it up. Here’s another healthy idea- turn down the larger amounts in those fast-food deals like “value meals” and “Super-sizing”. Everybody likes saving a dollar, but bad health is not a bargain.
Stay Slim with a Lifetime Eating Plan
The “New American Plate” was not designed to be a weight loss diet. But it does show people how to enjoy foods in sensible portions. Thus, it promotes a healthy weight as one aspect of an overall healthy lifestyle. If you forget fad diets and stick to this plan, you shouldn’t have to worry about obesity. All the fad diets with their high-protein, low-sugar, low-carbohydrate directives have confused people about some basic principles.
Ignore any diet that encourages you to cut back on the fruits and vegetables that help prevent chronic disease. You do not want to put your long-term health at risk for short-term weight loss.
In addition to selecting healthy foods, pay attention to the calories you take in. “Once you suit your portions to your needs, you will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight for life.
Check out the “The New American Plate” online! (Click here).
Serving Sizes Simplified
- One way to help you remember what a serving looks like is to compare it with something familiar. Hopefully the following examples will help you.
- A single serving of vegetables is about the size of your fist.
- A single serving of vegetables cooked is about the size of the palm of your hand.
- A single serving of pasta is about the size of one scoop of ice cream.
- A single serving of meat is about the size of a standard deck of cards.
- A single serving of grilled fish is about the size of a checkbook.
- A single serving of butter, margarine, peanut butter or cream cheese is about the size of your thumb (joint to tip).
- A single serving of snacks (pretzels, chips) is about the size of a handful.
- A single serving of chopped fruit is about the size of a tennis ball.
- A single serving of an apple is the size of a baseball. A larger apple would add one-half to one more fruit serving.
- A single serving of potatoes is about the size of a computer mouse (baked, mashed, etc.)
- A single serving of steamed rice is about the size of a cupcake wrapper.
Small changes can make a big difference. Choosing the regular burger instead of the quarter-pounder burger saves 160 calories.