Portion Distortion

by DiAnn Lanke Stasik 06/12/08

Did you know that dinner plates grew? The standard size of a dinner plate in 1990 was 10 inches; now it is 12 inches. Cups and bowl sizes grew too. We are now eating on what used to be called “chargers” and what used to be our dinner plates are now our salad plates. This dinnerware increase has caused an increase in our waistlines. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that people served themselves bigger portions of ice cream when they were given larger bowls and spoons. Additionally, they tended to eat the entire serving.

Then there is the “super size me” effect. I’m referring to the increase in portion size. A hamburger served at McDonald’s in 1955 weighed around 1.6 ounces. Fifty years later that hamburger has grown by 500 percent to a whopping 8 ounces. The Journal of Public Health Policy verified this increase in 2007 with a published paper that stated that fast food portion sizes are two to five times larger than when they first went to the market.

This increase in dinnerware size and serving size has produced what I call “portion distortion.” We have no idea how much we should be eating. When we compare two food labels of similar products but different manufacturers, we realize that everybody has their own scale of what is a portion size. Not too many of us carry around our calculators and do the math so that we can compare the same units. With all the marketing strategies, mixed signals, information and information overload, we have forgotten the essential and basic nutrition rule – eat according to your body’s needs. We should be eating to live, not living to eat.

How many times have my clients heard me say “watch your portion sizes?” With that being said, here is a great (fast, simple and clear) slideshow from the Mayo Clinic on portion control for weight loss: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/portion-control/NU00267/RETURNTOLINK=1&RETURNTOOBJID=2CEE92F2-74A2-468C-8DC51ED91D249468&slide=1. It is only 7 slides which you can get through in a couple of minutes.

Below you will find a “cheat sheet” of what one serving means to the various food groups:


  • 1 medium-sized piece of fruit
  • 1 small baked potato
  • 1/2 cup fruit (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) fruit or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup other raw vegetables or cooked veggies


  • 1 cup cold cereal
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1/2 cup pasta, rice or cooked cereal (ex. Oatmeal)
  • 1/2 small bagel
  • 1/2 English muffin


  • 1 egg
  • 3 ounces of cooked poultry, fish or lean meat (about the size of your palm)
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 1/2 cup tofu
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter


  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 ounces processed cheese
  • 1 ounces natural cheese (about the size of four dice)

The answer doesn’t come in skipping meals or in eliminating any of the food groups. Here’s a dieting no-brainer: your metabolism will decrease and you will lose lean muscle with ANY diet that that restricts your daily requirements. This is not a good thing! The cheap, initial weight loss occurs at a high long-term cost. Really, the short-term benefit is not worth the inadequate fuel supply. Be good to yourself by making long-term weight management a part of your daily priority/routine and don’t be fooled by short-term risks that are cleverly promoted as “benefits.” We need to eat a variety of foods from ALL the food groups in order to get the vitamins and minerals our body needs. Of course, there are exceptions to this. And although you, in and of yourself, are an exceptional person; more than likely your dietary requirements are not the exception. Rid yourself of portion distortion and become a healthier you!

DiAnn has her Master’s of Education in Health & Kinesiology and is a Cooper Institute Certified Physical Fitness Specialist, NWMAF Certified Self Defense Instructor, NETA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, American Taekwondo Association Registered Black Belt, Research Assistant for The Institute for Human Factors, and an Certified Rape Prevention Instructor of the Association of Women’s Self Defense Advancement . She is the founder and manager of W.O.W.® – Women Only Workout, LLC, which offers personal training, fitness classes and self defense courses and can be contacted through www.womenselfdefense.net.

Ó1997-2008 DiAnn Lanke Stasik & W.O.W. ® – Women Only Workout & SAFE-CHIÔ & Kickbox-R-SizeÔ & Building the Power WithinÔ

Greendale, WI

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