Healthy meals start with proper portion sizes
You're interested in having healthy meals at home and when you eat out. You have a good idea of what foods to choose for healthy meals. But do you have a good idea of portion sizes? Did you know that you're likely to eat more when you're presented with larger portions of food?
Restaurant portions and food packaging have skewed Americans' perceptions about serving sizes. So how can you reset your expectations about healthy meals and proper portion sizes? Rethink your plate. This guide will show you how.
Typical restaurant-style steak dinner
Look familiar? This typical restaurant-style meal (pictured at left) offers only — meat and starch — in oversized portions. It adds up to around 1,500 calories. It's also served on a too-large dinner plate.
The photo on the right shows a steak dinner that offers more variety and more-appropriate portions. Note that the steak takes up only a fourth of the plate, same with the brown rice. The rest of the plate is filled with vegetables. Even after adding fruit, salad and skim milk, the whole meal is still less than 500 calories.
Lunch done right
How does the lunch pictured on the left of an oversized burrito and sides stack up? It's obvious at a glance that it's short on fruits and vegetables and high in fat. What may not be obvious is that this lunch has more than 1,000 calories — enough for two people.
The photo on the right shows a regular-sized burrito made with grilled chicken, fresh veggies and a whole-wheat tortilla. It's a healthier way to indulge your taste for spicy fare. Fresh salsa and avocado slices replace the guacamole and sour cream and up the veggie count. You get all that for less than 500 calories.
Many people's idea of a traditional breakfast is eggs, sausage and white toast, which leaves little room for fruits, vegetables or whole grains. It can also add up to a lot of calories — the version shown on the left is around 750 calories.
The breakfast pictured on the right is lower in calories at around 400, and it's a great illustration of the plate method. Half of the plate is fruit, one-fourth is protein and the remaining fourth is whole grain.
An easy way to get portions right
Creating healthy meals starts at the plate. That's why the food pyramid has been replaced with a plate. As you see, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, preferably nonstarchy vegetables. Good choices include spinach, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and peppers. Grains fill another section. Choose brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or whole-wheat tortillas. Protein completes the plate. Healthy options include chicken or turkey without the skin, fish and other seafood, beans, soy, and lean cuts of beef and pork. Round out your meal with an 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk.