Portion Distortion: Do You Eat Too Much, a Little Too Often?
Nutrition What's inside?
Morgan Medeiros MSc
June 12, 2017

do you eat too muchEating a healthy diet but still not losing any weight? You’re not alone. Millions of frustrated gym-goers and nutritionally-conscious foodies attempting to crunch, sweat, and saute their way slim see little movement on the scale.

So what gives? Your plate size may be the answer.

Portion Distortion

Over the years, portion sizes have ballooned to make weight management difficult. Calorie consumption is at a high, thanks to large servings at restaurants and home alike. Even if you don’t eat outside of the home regularly, it’s likely that you’ve become accustomed to large serving sizes.

We tend to mimic what we see in restaurants and on television, and we give little thought when plating food, filling whatever vessel without concern for portion size- and thus, Caloric content. Caloric consumption is the single largest indicator of weight status. It is far easier to consume Calories than it is to expend them through exercise and activities of daily living. Even small increases in portion size add up over a multitude of meals.

Consider that 30 or 40 years ago, hamburgers were ⅓ of the current standard size, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health- and that increased portion size has expanded across all categories of food, albeit in varying degrees. According to the Journal of Nutrition, certain categories of food (ranging from fast-food chains to sit-down restaurants to grocery stores) have grown by as much as 138% since the 1970s.

Today, the average bagel clocks in at twice the size of its 1970’s brethren. The average order of french fries? One and a half times as large. The average slice of pizza? Up to 5 oz from a starting point of 3 oz.

What’s a nutritionally-focused, weight-conscious consumer to do?

Always pay attention to portion size, a key factor in Caloric content. Wherever possible, choose foods that give you the largest bang for your Caloric buck. Calorically dense foods (even healthy foods) don’t allow you a very large portion size. Consider that a single slice of pizza can contain anywhere from 350-700 Calories, while a roasted chicken breast contains 280 Calories.

While recognizing true portion sizes can be demoralizing (there are how many Calories in a slice of pepperoni?!), it also allows you to consume your favorite foods while maintaining a healthy weight, rather than feeling the need to omit them from your diet entirely.

Won’t I be hungry with smaller portion sizes?

As you become accustomed to smaller portion sizes, increase your consumption of the foods we should all be eating more of- namely, non-starchy vegetables, which remain the most under consumed food group in the United States. When consumed without added fat or sauce, green vegetables are so low in Calories that they won’t harm your bottom line, so to speak. The added volume and fiber will help fill you up as you whittle your way down the portion size ladder.

Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).

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