Archive for the tag - serving

Does The Color of Your Plate Affect How Much You Eat?

The-Delboeuf-illusion-Why-expanding-dinner-plates-are-expanding-our-waistlines_medium_vgaI don’t make this shit up.

Back in the 1800s, the Delboeuf illusion was discovered. When you look at concentric circles (i.e., a circle within a circle), the perceived size of the inner circle changes when the size of the outer circle is changed. If you apply the principle of this illusion to food, people tend to underestimate portions on bigger plates and overestimate portions on smaller plates. For this reason, you’ve probably heard people recommend smaller plates to help facilitate weight loss.

But it doesn’t end there.

sushi-food-sexyAs it turns out, color is important, too. A few years back, researchers expanded on this idea by exploring the impact of plate color. What they found was pretty amazing. When there was a high color contrast between plate color and food (for example, pasta with red sauce on a white plate), participants served themselves less. When there was a low color contrast between plate color and food (for example, pasta with Alfredo sauce on a white plate), participants served themselves 22% more.

Twenty-two percent is a staggering number, especially when you consider the repeated impact of meal after meal over time. It’s a lot of calories.

Being aware of the illusion should be enough to overcome it, right? No. Even after participants were made aware of the illusion, the outcomes were still the same. So rather than resisting the Delboeuf illusion, embrace it! If you want to eat less, use a small plate that differs in color from your food. If you want more veggies, serve those veggies on a green plate.

Of course, when it comes to diet and nutrition, plate size and color is just one variable of many. Download Davey Wavey’s Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter for a simple, foolproof guide to transforming the way you look and feel through the foods you eat.



Don’t Clean Your Plate.

Life-With-Mom-Week-14-Clean-Your-PlateWhen I was growing up, my mother taught me to clean my plate. Especially if I wanted some ice cream or cake for dessert. And so, I learned to become a human garbage disposal.

It’s not particularly surprising that I started gaining weight. And still, I kept clearing my plate. By 2nd and 3rd grade, I was severely overweight.

My mother’s “clear your plate” strategy was certainly well intentioned. But, as it turns out, it’s not particularly helpful in creating a healthy or balanced lifestyle. In fact, quite the opposite. In addition to resulting in overeating, it teaches all of us to ignore feelings of hunger or fullness.

11048180Eating everything on your plate is a dangerous game to play. That’s especially true when going out to eat.

According to one study, portion sizes increased for every category of food except pizza between 1977 and 1996. Hamburgers increased in size by 23%. Mexican food portions are 27% larger. Sodas increased by 52%.

Another study found that today’s steaks exceed USDA serving recommendations by 144%. Not to be outdone, muffins are 233% larger. With all that in mind, clearing you plate is a recipe for disaster - and it’s no wonder that more than a third of American adults are obese.

And not clearing your plate doesn’t mean wasting food. You can certainly store food in the refrigerator or freezer and save it for subsequent meals.

It’s time to resign from the clean your plate club. Despite what your mother said, it’s okay to leave food behind. In fact, it’s a very good thing.


People Eat Larger Portions of “Healthy” Food. [Study]

small-portion1If a food is labelled healthy, do you give yourself a free pass to overindulge? According to a recent study, you’re not alone.

The study, commissioned by Ireland’s Safefood agency, examined the relationship between consumer eating habits and product packaging/marketing. When participants were asked to serve themselves appropriate-sized portions of “healthy” and regular food brands, the participants both served larger portions of the so-called healthy foods and underestimated the caloric content.

Of course, this study brings to light what food marketers already know. According to Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan, the director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood:

Foods are marketed as being healthier for a reason, because food producers believe, and they correctly believe, that those labels will influence us to eat their products and perhaps eat more of their products.

Marketing a food product with health claims will not only get consumers to buy that product - but it will also get consumers to eat more of the product. In other words, it means more money and bigger profits for the companies producing these foods.

The moral of the story is two-fold.

First and foremost, don’t believe claims on product packaging. Instead, review the nutrition information and ingredients for real insight.

Second, review your portion size against the product’s serving size. Even if a product is truly healthy, it’s still not an excuse to overeat. If your body takes in more calories than it needs, then those excess calories will be stored as body fat - regardless of where they came from.

The bottom line: “Healthy” isn’t a license to overeat.

What to Look for on Nutrition Labels.

nutritionlabelDeciding whether a food product is healthy can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, nutrition labels make things easier and give you an even playing field. You just need to know what to look for.

When doing my grocery shopping, there are five major nutrition label elements to which I pay attention.

  1. Saturated and trans fat. Fat gets a bad rap. But the truth is, not all fats are created equal. And your body does need some essential, good fats to function properly - and that’s why some fats like olive oil can be part of a healthy diet. It’s the saturated and trans fats that you’ll want to limit or avoid. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to 7% of total daily calories. If you need 2,000 calories a day, that means 140 calories from saturated fats - which translates to about 16 grams per day. Trans fats should be limited to less than 1% of total daily calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 20 calories from trans fats or about 2 grams of trans fats per day. Consuming excessive amounts of these bad fats can increase your bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, increase stroke, heart disease and type II diabetes risk.
  2. Calories. When it comes to calories, the first thing to understand is your daily caloric requirement. Based on the Harris Benedict Calculator, most people will find that they need between 2,000 and 2,5000 calories a day to stay in a neutral state. Once you know how many calories you need, it’s easier to make smarter choices. Many seemingly innocuous foods and beverages are packed with calories but totally devoid of nutrients. Spend your calories wisely!
  3. Sugar. Many sugary foods are labeled as fat-free. Marshmallows, for example, are marketed as a fat-free food. And while they don’t contain any fat, they will still make you fat thanks to a very high sugar count. I like to limit sugar to less than 10 grams per portion, especially when it comes to breakfast cereals and smoothies - both of which can be secret sugar bombs. Sugar consumption has been associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol, type II diabetes, weight gain and even aging of the skin.
  4. Ingredients. Read the ingredients. If you find things that aren’t in your grandmother’s pantry, view it as a red flag. As a general rule, it’s wise to go with food that’s actually food - and not something that’s highly processed and loaded with chemicals. If you can’t even pronounce it, do you really want to eat it? Also, know that there are many ingredients that are really just sugar in disguise (here are 45 other names for sugar). If sugar is high on the ingredient list, opt for something else.
  5. Serving size. Last but not least, look at the serving size. Marketers are clever; a food may seem healthier because the serving size is ridiculously small. Ice cream servings, for example, are often listed at one half of a cup. When was the last time you ever saw someone eat half a cup of ice cream? You’ll need to adjust the nutrition information depending on the size of the portion you’ll actually eat.

Of course, there are other important aspects of the nutrition label - like fiber content or vitamins and minerals - but these five elements are a great place to start. They’ll set you on a smarter path and help you make some easy upgrades to your diet.

What do you look for on nutrition labels? Let me know in the comments below!

Portion Sizes (And Waistlines) Increasing: What You Can Do About It.

Portions are on the rise - but so are obesity rates.

Just because it’s in front of you, it doesn’t mean you need to eat it. Though it may be a revolutionary concept to many of us, this guiding principle would do wonders to improve our health and decrease out waistline.

There is a difference between portions and servings. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat while a serving is the amount of food recommended by the USDA or FDA. A serving of pasta is one half cup, for example, but many of us eat much, much more. At a restaurant, it’s common to get four times that amount.

Over the years, portions have increased in size. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) demonstrated the increase by showing popular foods now compared to just 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, a typical portion of movie theater popcorn had 270 calories; today, it’s 630. Bagels have more than doubled from 140 to 350 calories. And while the burgers of yesteryear’s contained 333 calories, today’s average out at 590.

Portions aren’t the only thing on the rise - so are our obesity rates. While 47% of Americans were overweight in the 1970s, today it’s two out of three. And the obesity rate has doubled to 30% of the population.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that larger portions have been linked to increased consumption and overeating. One study looked at macaroni and cheese portions and found that participants consumed 30% more calories when offered the largest portion compared to the smallest. Despite the increased calories, participants reported similar feelings of fullness - and shockingly, only 45% of participants noticed the changes in portion sizes between the different dishes. Similar studies have been repeated with different foods - from sandwiches to soup to chips and pasta - with the same results. When we’re served more food, we tend to eat more.

So what is a concerned eater to do?

A little awareness can go a long way. Now that we’re aware of the influence or portions on our intake, we can do something about it. And to make things easier, NHLBI has created a handy serving size wallet card that you can print out and take with you. I recommend putting one on your fridge, too. When eating out, ask the waiter to bag up half the meal before it even comes to the table. When eating in, serve reasonable portions in plates (rather than putting the dishes on the table). And remember: Just because it’s in front of you, it doesn’t mean you need to eat it.

Have you noticed an increase in portion size over the years? And how do you practice portion control in your life? Let me know in the comments below.