How is BIG working out for you? 24 July 2015

Our American nation of abundance is rooted in 17th Century colonial times. A person who owned more land typically had a higher quality of life (1). Yes, we are the nation of abundance characterized by big houses, big cars, big trucks, big motor homes, big televisions, big couches, big farms, big tractors, and big wigs with big money. We also have big burgers, big fries, big steaks, big drinks, big muffins, big candy bars, big potatoes, big melons, big apples, big plates, big bowls, big bags of snacks…and yes, big people.

In many instances, bigger can be better, but in the nutrition world, it often creates a BIG problem. Unless you are a teenage boy, big portions of food probably don’t work in your favor. Not only can it lead to weight gain, it could also make heartburn and shortness of breath a problem. Portions have grown over the past 20 years. Many servings these days, particularly at restaurants, provide enough food for two or more people. Take the National Institutes of Health portion distortion quiz (2) found at the link provided at the end of this blog to learn some interesting facts, such as how the cheeseburger had about 333 calories 20 years ago; it now has about 590 calories!

So, what’s a person to do to tame these BIG portions? Consider some of these strategies for portion downsizing:

  1. Rethink your drink. If you have a cola, get the 6 oz cans, or choose the small orange juice or the regular-size coffee. Save the big cups for water.
  2. Go to the flea market or antique store to find small glasses, dessert dishes and plates. Let’s face it; the juice glass has become a vintage item.
  3. Do you eat out more than a few times a week? If so, lose the “get your money’s worth” attitude when dining out. It is human nature to have this mindset, but it can be hazardous to the waistline. Ordering fries or chips for just 99¢ more could add 300 or more calories to the meal.
  4. Do a little research before you go out to eat. Use MyNetDiary to add up the calories in different meals to see what fits in your calorie budget. Planning ahead prevents a hasty decision when the person is taking your order with 10 people waiting behind you in line.
  5. Get the mini dessert instead of the large version. Often, the kiddy size ice cream cone is plenty for a typical adult.
  6. Split a “half salad, half sandwich” order with someone when the “half” servings are really more like full servings.
  7. Choose smaller fruit at the grocery. Go for the lunch size apples, smaller bananas, smaller oranges, and smaller avocadoes.
  8. Choose the smaller bag of chips instead of the “Big Grab”, even when there is not much of a price difference.
  9. If you have only a few people in your home, try not to buy large quantities of food just because it is a better deal. Buying a large quantity usually results in the urge to eat more than you really need. Think about this before you buy the case of snack bars, the 5 lb feed sack of chips, the double box of crackers, the giant box of cereal or the 10 lb barrel of nuts. It can lead to overconsumption, especially if you have the mentality of “I spent my hard earned money on this food, so we had better eat it before it goes stale.” The one food item I do suggest buying in large bags is frozen vegetables. Go for it!
  10. When packing your lunch, use snack size baggies for items like fruit and snacks. Stores now carry portion-controlled snack bags with the measurement lines for ¼, ½, ¾, and 1 cup. They are great for tuning into reasonable portions. Get some small 1 oz and 4 oz plastic containers for foods like salad dressing, nuts and seeds.

Try some of the above tips to downsize your portions. It is essential for weight management while surrounded by big food. Do you have strategies that work for you? Please share them.



Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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