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Overeating: mind the portions!

Did you find yourself over indulging latly? Don’t feel badly about it; you now have time to get back
on track. Maintaining a healthy diet is not only about whatyou eat, but also about how much you eat. A research from York University suggests most Canadians underestimate what constitutes one serving of meat, grains and fruits and vegetables when using the Canada Food Guide. The Canada Food Guide can be used as a reference, but the quantity of food an individual should eat differs from one person to the next and depends on characteristics such as gender, size, age, level of activity, metabolism and more.


Supersized meal portions are heavily marketed particularly in North American culture. Serving sizes
in restaurants and grocery stores have grown, and many people think that the amount of food in front of them is the right quantity. According to “Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms,” a study by Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, largesized
offerings in supermarkets have increased 10-fold between 1970 and 2000, and the surface area of the
average dinner plate has increased by 36% since 1960.



Here are 8 strategies to help you adjust your portion sizes and avoid succumbing to the temptation of refilling your plate: 

  • Leave the table as soon as eating is done.
  • Eat enough throughout the day, including breakfast. 4 in 10 Canadians report not eating breakfast every day,
    and many people struggle with portions and choices at supper or in the evening because they haven’t eaten enough throughout the day and feel deprived.
  • Eat until you’re no longer hungry rather than full (full = over-eaten). Another way to look at it is eat until you
    feel 80% full. Remember it takes about 20 minutes for you to feel “full”. Give your body time.
  • Take a portion of food from the container and place in bowl, then before eating it, put the container away. It’s
    too easy to keep re-filling the bowl!
  • Keep a food journal – this can be extremely insightful, even if done only for a few days (either on paper or online at Eatracker.ca, myfitnesspal.com, etc.). Focus on variety and balanced nutrition instead of counting calories.
  • When eating with a group of people, serve yourself last. This way you’re not done first, and tempted to keep eating while waiting for others.
  • Learn to say no thank you. Love it or leave it!
  • Make eating a single task activity. Eat sitting down at one designated place and turn off the TV, computer, phone and focus on enjoying your food. As often as possible, avoid multitasking with food and instead concentrate on enjoying your meal with focused attention. Learn how to practice “Mindful Eating” in five easy steps.

Maintaining a healthy diet is all about awareness. Our registered dietitians can help you read the labels and understand what you really buy and eat. Click here to learn more.


Don’t let your environment or marketing strategies influence you.  Check out these provocative findings about portion control outlined in research from Cornell University's Brian Wansink and his team:

  • Big servings. People who were given a big bucket of (stale) popcorn ate 34% more than people who got a smaller bucket.
  • Fancy names. Cafeteria sales jumped by 27% when foods were given descriptive names like “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet” (instead of “Seafood Filet”) or “Belgian Black Forest Cake” (instead of “Chocolate Cake”).
  • More variety, more calories. People ate about 40% more if they had a choice of candy that came in six different colors than if the candy came in four colors.
  • Plate-ware matters. When people were served a brownie on a Wedgwood china plate, they rated its taste higher than when the brownie was served on a paper plate or napkin.
  • Food on the table. Men ate about 29% more – and women about 10% more – if the serving dish was left on the table (rather than the counter).
  • Who sets the pace? People ate more when they sat at a table with someone who ate quickly than with someone who ate slowly.
  • How much did I eat? People ate fewer chicken wings if they could see the bones of the wings they’d already eaten than if the bones were whisked away.
  • Healthy restaurant? People who believed that Subway meals were healthy underestimated the calories in Subway meals more than the calories in McDonald’s meals. Check out our low carb takeout lunch guide to  discover which takeout meal choices contain more carbs than 11 slices of white bread! 
  • Health halo. If a bag of M&M’s or trail mix was labeled “low-fat”, people ate more than if the label didn’t say

Change is tough, but with the right support, knowledge and confidence, you can make healthy lifestyle choices and look forward to remarkable results this year and for years to come. Our registered dietitians are available to help you reach your goals: weight management, lower cholesterol or blood pressure, emotional eating, etc. They can develop personalized strategies adapted to your lifestyle. Click here to learn more about our nutrition services or to book an appointment.