Tag Archives: portion size

Miracles Don’t Happen at the Plate: How Portion Control Got So Out of Control in the U.S.

The china said it all.

When Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN and author of “Read It Before You Eat It,” inherited her husband’s great grandmother’s antique china, she unpacked a lot of salad plates, but was miffed when the dinner plates were nowhere to be found. She called her aunt, who had long been steward of the china, to investigate. Turns out, the salad plates were the dinner plates.

“The dinner plates from the 1920s were like our salad plates today,” said Bonnie. “They just don’t compare to the giant plates at restaurants.”

brontosaurus bones

Portion size has grown exponentially over the last 100 years. Factors like plate size, familial dynamics, and monetary investment in our food have contributed to an increased average portion size, and in turn, made America fat.

Bonnie was quick to point out that at fancy restaurants, the plate sizes are smaller, and customers tend to value those limited portions more because of the high cost. On the flip side, diners, drive ins, and dives are serving up “brontosaurus bones” on the cheap. No matter the price, people are going to eat what’s in front of them because if they paid for it, they’re gonna finish it. And Americans love to get more bang for their buck. “Value is very often associated with volume,” said Bonnie.

“If you feel like you have to eat as opposed to choosing to eat, then you belong to the ‘clean-plate club’ and it’s time to cancel your membership,” she told us. (more…)

Portion Reality Check: Learn How to Enjoy Sweets, Beverages and Salty Snacks

By Janis Jibrin, R.D.,TheBestLife.com lead nutritionist

Portion size is directly related to pants size, especially when it comes to high-calorie treats like ice cream, alcohol and chips. Previously we’ve looked at proper sizes for starch servings. Now we’ll tackle sweets, beverages and salty snacks.  

Sure, none of these foods are necessarily nutritious, but they do make life more fun. That’s why on Bob Greene’s Best Life plan, we’ve set aside a portion of your total daily calories to spend on treats like these. The more daily calories you can consume while maintaining a healthy body weight (or getting down to one), the more “Anything Goes” treat calories you get. You gotta love exercise—it allows you to eat more (treat) calories.

Keep in mind that treat calories are included in the daily calories listed below—they’re not extra. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, and taking in 1,600 calories daily, 1,500 would be spent on fruits, lean protein and other nutritious foods, and 100 on treats. (more…)

Food and Clothing Labels Lie: Are You Aware and Do You Care?

When you grab a bite to eat somewhere, there are particular decisions you have to make. Obviously, what you’re going to eat but also what size you’re going to order. You may have noticed how the different sizes vary by each restaurant/fast food chain. What you may not have noticed is a small order at one place might be considered a medium at another. For example, you’re at Burger King and ask for a small order of fries because you want to be conscious of the amount you’re eating, but if you had gone to McDonald’s that same small order at Burger King would have been considered a medium. Would this make a difference in your decision making?

Aradhna Krishna, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan, has performed studies over this labeling phenomena. What she found is that food sizes have become larger over time. “So, that same hamburger has become bigger, the french fries have become bigger, and again this is leading to obesity,” said Krishna on NPR.

Krishna wanted to learn if the label was truly making a difference in what size consumers bought. In order to do so, she conducted an experiment where she offered participants a cookie. One was given a label as “medium” and the other was given a label as “large.” The catch was that both were actually the exact same size. The results proved the theory and showed that more people chose the “medium” cookie over the large.

“Just because there’s a different size label attached to the same actual quantity of food, people eat more. But also, think they’ve not eaten as much,” said Krishna. “Sizes should be more uniform and that will only help the consumer because you’ll know what you’re getting.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a “large” soda today is six times bigger than a “large” soda in the 1950s. Past studies have also shown that by eating off a smaller plate, people can sometimes overestimate the serving size they’ve been given, and drinking beer from a glass that’s straight as opposed to one that’s curvy can help people keep better track of how much they’ve drank. (more…)

Portion Size Reality Check: Learn How to Eat Healthy Starches

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., TheBestLife.com lead nutritionist

A little calorie denial is OK, but if your denial’s deep, sooner or later you’ll pay the price on the scale. My recommendation: Take a few weeks to measure your food. Once you get portions under control, you’ll automatically cut back on calories. Rolling your eyes already? I know, so many people can’t stand the idea of measuring, but I’m going to make it a little easier by asking you to track just one type of food for a week.

Sure, you could measure and weigh everything that crosses your lips, but most of us aren’t getting fat off of fruit, vegetables, fat-free milk, fish and other healthy, low-calorie foods. It’s bread, potatoes and other starchy foods, as well as fried foods, sugary beverages, sweets, salty snacks, and too much butter, oil, mayo and other fats that get us all into trouble.

This week, I’m going to ask you to focus on one major waistline saboteur: starches. Your goal is to cut way back on white bread, white rice and other refined grain products and enjoy healthy starches like whole grains and sweet potatoes in moderation. (They’re more nutritious and make you feel fuller than refined grains.) For some people, the “in moderation” part can be tricky. That’s why you’ll get so much out of measuring and tracking servings this week; pretty soon you can put away the measuring cups and just eyeball your plate. In just a few weeks, you’ll emerge a portion pro, and you’ll love the results on the scale. (more…)

Food Waste Equals Money Gone and Weight Gained

You either have it or you don’t: that animal instinct that causes your insides to die little when you waste a bite of food.

I have it. Blame it on my family. Growing up in a home that heartily encouraged a happy plate, I’ve been programmed to take only what I can eat and finish it all – licking my plate when necessary.

Clearly, it hasn’t worn off. Today as an adult, I still can’t stand to throw away food. It’s so wasteful. I will likely forever view it as money gone in the trash. But you know what? That’s not such a bad thing because it makes me more conscious of the money I spend on food and how I can avoid waste.

Another reason not to waste food? It can be healthier for your waistline. Here’s how.


Portion Sizes, Exercise, and Good Examples are One Doc’s Prescription to Cure Childhood Obesity

The fact that our country is experiencing an obesity crisis is not news. However, until it is reversed, praise goes to the doctors and advocates who won’t give up the fight. One of the hardest battles in the obesity epidemic is that of the children. Natalie Sollo, the Childhood Obesity Clinic Medical Director in Wichita, Kansas offers some fresh insight to the problem and how portion sizes may be a key to solving children’s weight problems.

One of the hardest facts to face about childhood obesity is that our kids are commonly experiencing diseases that were once only considered “adult” diseases. These afflictions include high blood pressure, diabetes, and even sleep apnea. Sollo pointed out the downward spiral an obese child is more likely to fall into. As obesity is known to commonly cause depression and low self-esteem, a child is more likely to emotionally overeat. These habits will easily lead to adult obesity which brings on even more health problems. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, many types of cancer, and osteoarthritis are all common diseases an obese adult faces.

The problem is growing every day, but why? Why are our kids in such risk today verses even 20 years ago?


Half-Portions Offer Restaurant Goers Calorie Savings

entree and side dish of riceResearchers found that one third of customers opt for half portions of rice or noodles when given the option, even when the cost in not significantly less. Cutting down the serving size of starchy sides like these can represent a major calories savings, even when the entree remained the same.

The research was conduced at a popular Chinese restaurant not far from Duke University, typically frequented by students, staff and visitors to the campus hospital. The standard serving of rice or noodles is 10 ounces for 400 calories. Patrons where asked, “Would you like a half-order to save 200 calories?” Depending on the day, 14 to 33 percent of patrons said yes. Moreover, those who ordered the smaller side dishes also ate less, the researchers determined.

The researchers also tested to see if adding calorie counts to menus and offering a small discount for smaller servings would motivate patrons to eat less, however these changes did not affect ordering habits. We’re more likely respond to visual cues to tell us how much to eat, rather than slowing down and waiting for our bodies to trigger feelings of fullness.


Finally Starting on the Biggest Loser Meals!

It seems like I’ve written a lot of posts before we’ve eaten a single meal, finally we started the plan on Monday morning! It looks like a week heavy on chicken — six out of ten meals.

It’s only two full days on the program, but so far so good. The food doesn’t taste like homemade, but it’s still tasty. I’m a little hungry, but not starving. And for me the best part is not thinking about the food.

When I’ve been on diets that I’ve had to prepare and shop for the foods, I found I “thought” about it all day long. Then by the time I shopped and cooked it, I would think about it even more and get hungry. My portion sizes would vary and soon the “deck of cards” size meat portion would be the size of “two decks of cards”. With this meal plan I love that everything is prepared, in portion-control sizes and all I have to do is make a salad, heat and eat!

The company suggests heating the food pouches in boiling water, but a microwave can also be used. I didn’t see much difference in the taste of the food, but it’s easier to boil the pouches. Since I’m doing two meals at once, I haven’t quite figured out how much longer they need to be cooked. That will come with time.

The main meals of lunch and dinner have consisted of three pouches that are heated and then combined together.

Lunch pouches before cooking

Tip: Be sure to drain the juices out of the veggie pouches and some of the juices out of the meat, otherwise it can turn into a soggy mess.

Breakfast was called a Chocolate Doughnut, not really how I would describe it, more like a chocolate pastry. Actually I’m not used to eating something this sweet for breakfast, so that took some getting used to and the portion was a bit small (especially compared to other meals). I think it could almost satisfy my chocolate cravings!

  • Calorie Count: 90
  • My personal score would be a 6 out of 10.


My first lunch was Chicken in a Thai curry sauce over white rice w/vegetables. I thought this was pretty good. It was both filling and tasty, can’t get much better than that.

  • Calorie Count: 430
  • Personal score 7 out of 10.

Chicken in Thai Curry Sauce


Dinner was a Chicken breast in Marsala sauce over low carb pasta. Since pasta is one of my downfalls, I was very happy to have it for the first day’s dinner. After having two fairly tasty meals, this was the first disappointment. The meal was filling, but the chicken was a little dry and tough.

  • Calorie count: 420
  • Personal score 5 out of 10

Chicken in Marsala Sauce

One thing that would be a nice to have is a list of snacks or extras that would be a good addition to the day’s plan. On Monday I also ate an apple, 1/2 tangerine, a green salad with diet dressing and a small handful of almonds. The meals were certainly less than I would normally eat, but were satisfying. I was a little hungry, but it was manageable.


A Blueberry Protein Waffle didn’t look very appetizing when it came out of the package, but the addition of the sugar-free syrup helped make it yummy.

  • Calorie Count: 185
  • Personal score 7 out of 10

Chicken in a Bourbon Sauce with mixed vegetables and broccoli was another filling lunch that was tasty. Although this is the third chicken meal in a row, two of them were pretty good with nice sized chunks of tender meat that were identifiable (as opposed to some of the frozen meals tried in the past).

  • Calorie Count: 265
  • Personal Score: 7 out of 10

Finally no chicken! This meal was a Beef Pot Roast with asparagus and mixed corn. If there is one thing I can do, it’s make a mean pot roast and this didn’t compare to homemade. But it was still good and filling. The veggies were both colorful and tasty.

  • Calorie Count: 530
  • Personal Score: 8 out of 10

Tuesday’s snacks consisted of another apple, green salad with diet dressing, a few bite-size tomatoes and a handful of almonds.

Looking Forward

Now it’s onto the hump day of the week, I’ll not be able to eat the prepared lunch on Wednesday, but will still try and keep the calorie and nutritional counts about the same. Also, I won’t bore everyone with posting our daily menu, but wanted everyone to get an idea of what the foods are like. I’ll check back in over the weekend with a report on how the entire week went.

Need more? Follow along with all of Barb’s posts, read the Biggest Loser Meal Plan review or order now from Bistro MD.