As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist my goal is to help you live your life the healthiest. My focus is to help you create goals and accomplish them. I hope my past articles have helped you to identify the food groups: protein, carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy), and fat. Vitamins minerals, fiber and water, are not considered food groups but they contribute necessary building blocks for our bodies. This is primary education necessary to create a healthy food plan. I am assuming you can identify these nutrients every time you eat and drink. Knowing the number of portions of each of these food groups is the next step in creating your eating plan. This article will focus on portion education.
My first word of advice concerns labeling on packages, which can be very misleading. I would like you to make a habit of looking at the ingredients first. You need to know the order of ingredients gives you the amount of each ingredient. So if you see sugar, fructose, maltose, beet sugar, dextrose, disaccharide, galactose, glucide, pentose, polysaccharide, xylose, sucrose, honey, sucralose, corn syrup, cane sugar or any word beginning with gluco, glycol or sacchar be aware if they are listed in the beginning there is a larger amount added.
Next, it is a good habit to read the ingredients and be able to identify them by food groups and nutrients. If there are many chemicals and additives that don’t fall into a nutrient category then please understand they are there for the manufacturers benefit and their profit margin. Stabilizers, and or sugar and salt, keep processed foods from spoiling therefore not needing to be replaced.
Next, how many ingredients are found that you cannot identify. Chemicals not nutrients!!! These two exercises should eliminate many common choices.
After this the next important assessment has to do with serving sizes. Serving sizes also benefit the manufacturer not the consumer. Serving sizes are very different then portions. My favorite example is pasta. Let’s look at the nutrition label. The serving size of 2 oz. (1/4 cup) can be found after calories. 2 oz. dry pasta cooks up double to 4oz or ½ cup. The average serving in a restaurant is closer to 2 or 3 cups. That is 4-6 portions of pasta.
Next please consider fat. Our bodies need fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are beneficial for many reasons. These fats work to lower LDL cholesterol, they are included as building blocks for hormones released by our brains, and necessary for our eyes, hair and insulation. Trans fats are included for manufacturing profit lines, certainly not beneficial for our health. Saturated fats are found in animal products, beef, fish, poultry, pork, eggs, milk and cheese. These food products also contain calcium, iron, vitamin b-12, vitamin D, and other beneficial nutrients. If saturated fat is no more than 5-10% of your total daily fat intake you will again eliminate many products you might have chosen. Snack bars and cereals are good examples. Just because the manufacturers label have the words healthy, and whole grain, on the front package don’t be mislead—look at the ingredients. Remember, the first listed ingredients are the largest quantities added, and please check out the saturated fat.
Next please look at the calories and serving size. I have seen snack bars with 500 calories and cereals of ¼ cup serving size having 400 calories. There are many snack bars, breads, yogurts and cereals that have excellent high standards set by their manufacturers, and I highly recommend them.
So how are portions determined? There are many suggested guidelines using measuring tools or your hand, a golf ball, a tennis ball, your check book, or computer mouse. Just like other aspects of nutrition, number of portions for each food group is customized by each individual’s goals. Weight loss, gain, maintenance, medications, disease states (diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, cholesterol mgte, etc.)are the determining factors to customize your plan. That’s where my work begins. After initial consultation a plan is determined including portion control.
There is so much misleading information. Our population is becoming increasingly unhealthy and obese. I chose to write this article to enlighten and encourage everyone to become their own adversary to improve their health. Knowledge is power!!
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