on the American diet

In a recent On the Street offering in the Lawrence Journal-World the issue of ‘eating healthy’ when eating fast food came up. Being both health conscious and prone to eating junk food, I read opinions, commentary and threw in my two cents. This lead to the inevitable Google search and an investigation of portion control.

The American Cancer Society published an article detailing correct portion size, which had some very good visual cues to identify how much is actually a ‘serving’, according to the FDA. Some of these I’d heard about already, such as the “deck of cards”-sized amount of meat that is a single serving for one adult’s meal. What I didn’t remember (or know) was that this is only 3 oz. of meat, just a bit more than comes on a McDonald’s hamburger.

The biggest eye-opener was rather mundane: 5-6 baby carrots is a serving. This of course prompted a trip to the fridge. The realization that this serving could all fit in my hand, indeed was just half of a handful.

Discovery: I’ve been overeating, not just on junk food, but on vegetables as well. (I can, and have, eaten a 1 lb. bag of those same baby carrots at one sitting, then proceeded to have dinner.)

Furthermore, a recent article in Psychological Science states that portion size is all in our minds, that we are culturally programmed to eat ‘one’, no matter how big or small ‘one’ is. Citing personal experience, I’m inclined to agree (‘one’ pint of ice cream gets eaten, or one small scoop, depending on the container I’m eating it out of.).

I’m now grateful for my inability to finish restaurant servings (always enough for two and sometimes three meals). For years I thought I had a ‘small stomach for protein’ because I could only eat half of the smallest steak (usually 8 oz.) at any given time. I even eat only 2/3 of the usual size (1/4 lb.) hamburger, leaving a crescent-shaped remainder reminiscent of a watermelon rind. It’s more than a bit gratifying to know that it’s not me, it’s, well, us.

As any child of the Depression will tell you, Not Eating All Your Food is a cardinal sin, causing other children to starve in [continent and/or region containing Third-World Countries]. In the United States, we are priviledged to have too much of just about everything, at least according to standards of living in many other countries. I can only attest to Germany, where, at least in the Italian restaurants I visited, the pasta bowls are the size of, well, pasta bowls, and not the same diameter as a large pizza. (Compare this to Olive Garden, which also has two chicken breasts on a dinner-sized portion.)

It’s getting preachy in here, I know. The point that drives this home for me is that I ate what I wanted (probably in the portions provided) in Germany, didn’t change that once I got home, and went up way too many pants sizes in less than a year, just from eating American food and walking less. (In case you’re wondering, I lost less than one pants size while in Germany, and I had been dieting in here before I left.)

Food for thought.

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2 thoughts on “on the American diet

  1. I tell you what, everything is so close here, and the restaurants are so good, I am seriously worried about my pants size.

    Luckily we will have no money whatsoever.

  2. My poverty was probably a contributing factor to my slimness in Germany. That, and the organic/whole foods stuff wasn’t that much more than regular stuff.

    Seriously, I went from Atkins dieting to eating mainly pasta and veggies and lost a pants size.

    Cheap food here, however, is full of crap. Good stuff is relatively much more expensive than its not-so-good counterpart.

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