A Healthy Balance: Calories and Activity

(www.cardiosmart.org) – Unfortunately, portion sizes have grown (a lot) in the last several decades—“supersized” portions are often offered at relatively low prices. As a result, our reference point for what a healthy portion looks like may be vastly distorted. For example, today’s bagels or muffins are often at least two servings, yet we tend to eat the whole thing, thinking we’ve only had one serving.

At the same time, more Americans are eating their meals out of the home at restaurants where they can’t control the ingredients. The problem? Some entree portions are packed with an entire day’s worth of calories, fat and/or sodium.

Plate-Infographic“What we eat may be well more than what our body actually needs, and we know excess body weight can spell trouble for the heart,” says JoAnne M. Foody, MD, FACC, CardioSmart.org Editor-in-Chief. “Adopting a low-fat, heart-healthy diet and being mindful about how much food you are consuming is an important step to making better choices.”

Why Pay Attention to Portions?

Research shows that people eat more when they are given—or take—larger portions. We tend to eat what’s in front of us, often without thinking much of it. But indulging in bigger portions often means you are consuming more calories and fat than your body needs.

“An overloaded plate with ‘supersized’ portions translates to a lot of calories consumed,” adds Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State University. “Too many calories results in weight gain—a risk factor for both heart disease and diabetes.”

Bottom line: Healthy portion sizes are likely a lot smaller than what you are used to putting on your plate.

How Much Food is Enough?

It’s highly individual. Your age, gender, current weight and how physically active you are all play a role. Regardless, it’s important to stay in tune with what your body needs. For example, practice eating more mindfully so that you eat to feel satisfied, and not to the point of being overly full.

Your goal should be to eat a diet composed of a variety of foods that are prepared in healthful ways. Be mindful of salt, sugar and saturated fats, and use steaming, sautéing, baking, roasting or grilling methods to cook versus frying.

“Try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein and one-fourth with a starch like brown rice, whole grain noodles or a small plain baked potato,” says Kris-Etherton. “Take smaller bites and eat slowly.”
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