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A Better You
by Jo Ann Fore

How to Eat the Foods You Like and Lose Weight

“Oh my gosh – it is so much food,” stammered Gabriella, “Am I supposed to eat all of this?”

My daughter and I looked up from our food the waitress placed in front of us. What in the world is she talking about?

Gabriella, a Youth Ambassador from Brazil, stayed with our family for a week on her first visit to the United States. During that time, we realized how much more food we, as Americans, consume than others.


Society is concerned about the alarming rise of obesity; yet we’re eating more than ever. Shannon Tolbert, Registered Dietician with Wellmont Health Systems, agreed that portion control is an important part of healthy eating. Concerned that we’re deceived by the portion sizes we’re served in restaurants, Tolbert feels that for everyday life we need better references to what realistic serving sizes should be. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always what you eat as opposed to how much you eat.

“For example, the serving size of meat, at a restaurant, is usually 8-12 ounces; while a healthy portion of meat – for most people – is actually 6 ounces for the entire day,” stressed Tolbert, M.S., R.D.

Tolbert assists her clients by bringing out food models to give them a visible scale of accurate portion sizes. Clients are usually amazed to discover how much, or in most cases how little, food they should be eating. Tolbert offered these handy suggestions to help determine the serving size for most people:

» A serving of meat should be about 3 ounces – which would equate to the size of the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards.

» A one cup serving of vegetables or fruit would be about the size of a tennis ball.

» A ½ cup serving of starchy foods (grains, pasta, and carbohydrates) would be about the size of your fist, or a baseball.

» A serving of nuts or dried fruit would be about the size of a golf ball.

Bear in mind, accurate portion sizes should be determined by an individual’s specific calorie needs. And that’s where it can get confusing. We go around trying to figure out how much is too much.

Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, in a testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 acknowledged that people are “concerned and confused about everything from calories and carbohydrates, to vitamins and portion sizes.”

Carmona, in his plea to address The Obesity Crisis in America, stated that, “Throughout the day they (Americans) read the nutritional information on their meals and on their snacks. But do they really understand the information they’re reading? The labels list grams of fat. But do you know how many grams of fat you should eat in a meal? Or in a day? Or how many is too many? Or too few? These are seemingly simple questions, but we’re not giving Americans simple answers."

A great tool to determine your specific nutritional needs can be found at You can see what amount of food you should eat from each food group daily. Plug in your age, sex, and activity level. After submitting your information, it brings up how many calories, and serving sizes, you need to maintain your weight.

Tolbert recommends if you are trying to lose weight, “Simply subtract 500 calories from the number you are given, and you will lose about one pound a week.” As a dietician, Tolbert has seen numerous weight loss successes when people simply reduce their portion sizes. She encouraged “Healthy weight loss is slower – not like we always see on television. Don’t get discouraged, it takes time. Sometimes the slower the weight loss, the better you maintain it. It takes time, but it does work!”

The American Diabetes Association offers a fun, interactive site that gives you tips on how to build a plate of food that’s good for you. You pick the foods, fill your plate, and submit to see how your plate rates. Go ahead, try it out.

Remember: If you’re trying to lose weight, you can still enjoy your favorite foods. Maybe just not so much of them.

Jo Ann Fore welcomes your comments about this article or suggestions for material you would like to see in future articles. Email her at: A Better You is published every Saturday.

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