Creative Ways to Get Portion Size Under Control

Last Editorial Review: 5/5/2005

Don't let portion distortion derail your diet this spring

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

After a long and dreary winter, hopeful signs of spring are everywhere. Buds are on the trees, tulips and daffodils are poking their leaves above ground, birds are chirping again, people are gearing up tennis courts and baseball diamonds for the spring season.

At the market, peeps and chicks, the little pink and yellow sugar coated marshmallow blobs along with jelly beans of every color, are another rite of spring. Chocolate bunnies, candy-filled eggs and coconut filled nests hover close by on grocery shelves as favorite treats for Easter baskets.

Beyond signs of spring, the dietitian in me not only sees sugar, sugar, and more sugar in these seasonal favorites, but an opportunity to use these little critters for more than just satisfying a sweet tooth.

Spring is the perfect time to get outside, increase your physical activity, and gear up for the oft-dreaded bathing suit season. Why not use these adorable little fuzzy peeps and other springtime icons to better understand normal portion sizes and improve your diet?

Portion Distortion

Americans live in the land of plenty. Food is available at every conceivable location from gas stations to movie theaters, and portions are equally as plentiful. Take for example, the jumbo-sized movie theater candy bars that suggest sitting down for a few hours warrants hundreds of calories. And we wonder why 60% of adults are overweight!

The bottom line: we eat too much food and the wrong kinds of food. One of the easiest ways to cut back on calories and lose weight is by monitoring portion sizes.

Lose Weight With Peeps

Are you having a hard time figuring out serving sizes? If you use restaurant portions as your guide, you will be out in left field when trying to determine what the new Dietary Guidelines mean when recommending 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables, 6-8 servings of grains, and 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy.

Use these springtime symbols to help make sure you are enjoying all the nutritious foods for good health and weight control. Each item is equal to 1 serving.

  • 2 TSP peanut butter = one peep
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit = 1 golf ball
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal = 1 tennis ball
  • 1 1/2 ounces natural or 2 oz. processed cheese = 2 small chocolate eggs
  • 1 medium piece of fruit = 1 baseball
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt = 1 baseball
  • 1/2 cup cooked or raw cut up fruits or vegetables = 2 peeps
  • 1 cup leafy vegetables = 2 tennis balls
  • 1 small muffin = 2 peeps
  • 1 ounce lean meat or fish = 1 egg
  • 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds = 4 jelly beans
  • 1 cup ready to eat cereal = 1 baseball
  • 1 cup grapes, cherries, or berries = 1 baseball

Another strategy to help you meet the guidelines and eat more healthfully is to use the plate method. Fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables and split the remaining half between whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats and fish.

Published March 21, 2005.

SOURCES: Kathleen Zelman, RD, MPH, director, WebMD Nutrition. Archives of Internal Medicine.

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