Getting it ‘just right’: Proper portion size is key to maintaining a healthy weight

In college, eating healthily is difficult for more than one reason. For some people, the allure of unhealthy junk foods and snacks is too much to handle. For others, portion size stops them from eating the right amount of calories every day.

Portion size plays a huge role in weight loss. For many people, it seems so simple; don’t eat too much. However, the reality is that portion sizes can be extremely confusing, especially when eating at a college cafeteria. Many people may eat the correct things, but eating too much of a good thing may still be bad at times.

There are a couple estimates you can do to see what a portion size actually looks like. For meats, one portion of meat is about the size of your palm. Fruits and vegetables will be about the size of a closed fist. For grains and breads, a proper portion size is only about one slice of bread or half a muffin. Peanut butter and butter portion sizes are the size of the tip of your thumb. Pasta should be about a scoop of ice cream and cheese is about the size of a pair of dice.

However, what does this actually translate to into food eaten per day? According to the American Heart Association, a 2000 calorie diet should have around 6-8 portions of grains per day, 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2-3 servings of dairy products and fats and oils, and around 6 oz of meat per day.

Portion sizes are also static. Whether or not a product may be healthier than its counterpart, say a slice of white bread versus a slice of whole wheat, one portion is still a portion. According to a study by Reuters Health, when people think that a food is healthier, they tend to end up eating more and larger portions of it.

Portion size has been increasing steadily over the past couple of decades. The easiest way to see this increase is to look at the typically fast food meal size in the 1950s and the typical fast food meal size today. A 3.9 oz hamburger has increased to around 12 oz, and French fries have increased from 2.4 oz to 6.7 oz. The biggest change, however, comes from the empty calories in sodas, which have inflated in size of the past 50 years from 7 oz to 42 oz.

Portion sizes aren’t the absolute rules for what you should eat throughout the day; everyone is different and many people have diets tailored to what they want to accomplish. However, just being conscious of what a normal portion size should be will help students lose weight throughout the school year and make healthy choices.

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