Portion control is a personal choice more of us should be exercising

By Chuck NewcombMarch 23, 2012 

I must be getting old or something. I just can't go out to eat and finish a whole meal. Most of the time I ask for a container so I can take the rest home. Fortunately, I love leftovers.

So, is it me not getting enough exercise or just needing fewer calories?

I went on a website to investigate portions and found some interesting tidbits. These will probably not be a surprise to anyone over 40.

Did you know a typical hamburger 20 years ago had about 330 calories while today it may have closer to 600 calories? And what about the fries? Back in the dark ages, a serving of fries was around 210 calories for a 2.4-ounce serving, but today you will probably get almost 7 ounces of fries with over 600 calories. Then there is the 6.5-ounce soda with 85 calories. I dare anyone to try figuring the calories in a fountain soda today, especially since many restaurants serve all you can drink.

OK -- the soda thing may have given it away. I think the website had old information since I don't recall having a 6.5-ounce bottle of soda since the 1970s, when I got them out of a soda machine at the indoor shooting range on the Army base near our home.

So, what if the information is old? That probably means the amount of calories now is even higher. Looking at the McDonald's website, I found a plain hamburger is only 250 calories. Does anyone buy a plain burger with ketchup and a pickle anymore? The Double Quarter Pounder with cheese has 740 calories. The large order of fries is 500 calories. For anyone interested, the kid's size french fries are only 100 calories. But I forget the ranch dressing on the fries.

Who can deny that food portions these days are larger than ever? Go to a regular restaurant and you are served on a platter instead of a plate. Platters are what we used to put on the table for everyone to serve themselves. Research shows that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions, so it makes sense that we are overeating and getting fat.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org) has a short article for National Nutrition Month, which is March, titled "Get Your Plate in Shape." It takes a closer look at how much we are eating for each meal. Some tips include:

Eat slowly. If you are normally a fast eater, relax and make sure to chew your food thoroughly.

Stop a quarter of the way through your meal and check your hunger level.

Remember that you do not have to clean your plate during every meal.

Learn appropriate portion sizes.

If you stop eating when you are satisfied, you will avoid overeating and the uncomfortable feeling of being too stuffed.

Okay, simple enough. Don't wait for the portions to get smaller. Do something about it now, but that has to be a personal choice.

Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE is a consulting registered dietitian currently providing medical nutrition therapy services for Memorial Hospital Los Banos. He has a masters of science in clinical nutrition from New York University. E-mail questions to the Attention of ChuckRD at: MHA

LosBanos@

SutterHealth.org or on his website

MySmartRD.com.

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