Jul 13

My Plate – addressing portion sizes?

Kudos to the Government for making the USDA guidelines easier for the average American to understand! Finally, a visual aide that people can relate to. Right off the bat, I can say I am impressed that half of the plate consists of fruits and vegetables. This concept falls right in line with Micheal Pollan’s most important food rule “Eat Food, mostly plants, and not too much.” The protein portion for most people would house their lean beef, chicken or fish. For me, my protein consists of, well, more plants, and in most of my meals, the dairy is eliminated. As a matter of fact, in 2010, the government, for the first time, recommended a shift towards a plant-based diet for optimal health, according to an article in the LA Times.

Perhaps in the past, we were getting too complicated with the pyramid and confused on what exactly the guidelines were. The only problem that I find with this new “visual guideline” is that it doesn’t really tell you HOW MUCH of each food you should eat. Portions sizes have increased substantially in the past 20 years (plate sizes too), to the point that, if you eat out frequently, nine times out of ten you are over-eating. Most people are actually looking for more bang for their buck; all-you-eat restaurants and restaurants that give you enormous portions to make them feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

Most times, when I am out to eat, I can never finish my meal and all-you-can eat seems like a waste. Sure, I binge now and then, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I “stuffed” myself. Not that I am perfect, because believe me, I am far from it. I love my sweets and enjoy potato chips now and then, but for the most part my “relationship” with food is different from most people’s.

Here is a simple illustration, courtesy of Delicious Vitality, that clearly demonstrates how portions sizes have changed over the years.

Apparently, this shift has happened so slowly, that we hardly even noticed, except that our waistlines have increased and the rate of disease has multiplied.

What exactly is a healthy relationship with food? It’s a delicate subject for most. With a teeage daughter, I am very cautious to teach, rather than preach healthy eating habits. You would think, that I would be very strict when it comes to my daughter’s diet, but I’m not. I try to teach her the many benefits of a healthy diet that go way beyond “weight” and let her take it from there. It’s the relationship we build with food early on that will stick. Yes, food can be fun and can be very enjoyable, but the bottom line is – we eat to fuel our bodies. We fuel our bodies for energy, to ward off illness, and to feed our organs and muscles – that’s all, that’s the real reason we need to eat. Food is not meant to be a crutch or a pass time. Of course for some, this does not come very easy. They have been taught differently, and thoughts/habits ingrained are hard to break.

What I am trying to get to, through all this mumbo, jumbo, is that portions matter! An ENORMOUS piece of chicken or beef, however lean it may be, will probably be too much. (Oh, the pitfalls of too much protein – a separate post). Although , I do believe that you can eat “ginormous” amounts of broccoli and not gain anything except really strong bones! Follow the rules for caloric intake (below). Remember, this equation DOES NOT account for any additional activity you may partake in during the day. This is just what your body needs to function. If you are exercising vigorously, on a daily basis, you will need to add additional calories for energy used, or else you will have negative results.

Calculate Your BMR

Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing.

More: BMR Defined

Other factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex.

Step one is to calculate your BMR with the following formula:

655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

I am doing much more research on this topic. I am always trying to find the perfect balance. And that’s just it…it really is a balancing act. You want to enjoy your food and the meals you prepare, but at the same time have a healthy sense of why exactly you are consuming the food. I never realized how intricate a thing the diet can be until I started reading so much about it. Our diets, literally outline our quality of life. We truly are a product of what we eat, and honestly, how much we eat.

So, use the new guidelines! Pile your plate with half fruits and vegetables, but be mindful of how much your overall intake really is. A fantastic rule to live by is eat until you are 80% full, then get up. Use a tip from many Japanese households – keep prepared food off the table, make your plate, then sit down. Eat slowly and deliberately, chances are you’ll feel satisfied long before you over-indulge.

Since these MyPlate is so new, there are countless articles and information surrounding the impact it will have on the general public. I am reading through it slowly and making changes according to what I believe. Take the time and consider what is right for you, and what you can gain from the information provided.

Stay healthy, thanks for reading.

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