In order to promote healthy eating and the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one of my recent major events at work was the New Year, New You event. The event took place each weekend in January and I had a table set up with food models depicting what a well-balanced diet might look like. I used MyPyramid.gov to determine how many servings (approximately) of each food group the average American needs each day, then I displayed the servings on paper plates with these fun food models.
(1.5 ounces of cheese counts as one cup. There are 3 ounces of cheese in the picture below.)
(one packet of Hogsdon Mills travel flaxseed counts as 3 tsp oil)
You wouldn’t believe how many people came up to me and said, “Seriously, I have to eat all of this food?!” Yep, this does look like a lot of food! But in truth, many Americans get more calories than this each day, without even realizing it! Can you guess how many calories are depicted in the photos above? It’s about 2100 calories, which is a normal amount of food for most Americans. But looking around and seeing that about 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese, indicates to me that many Americans are eating more calories than this each day.
- Many people don’t consider two important concepts when they eat; volumetrics and nutrient density. Both of these concepts are important when you’re trying to either lose weight, or just be healthier overall. The focus is on eating foods with less calories and more nutrients, per unit of volume, or per serving. If you focus on these two concepts you will get full faster (larger volume of food!) while eating less calories and consuming the right amount of nutrients.
- To put this into perspective consider that many people are used to getting 500 calories from a very small calorie dense burger or piece of pizza, when they could get 500 calories from a slice of whole grain bread with 1 T nut butter, a cup of yogurt, a piece of fruit, and a string cheese (much greater volume of food, same amount of calories).
- Most Americans don’t get even close to the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies, so seeing a plate full of fruits and veggies does look like “a lot of food” because it takes up a lot of space (volume) on the plate, but also provides very few calories and tons of great nutrients.
- Many people see all of the grains in the first picture and think, “I am supposed to eat that much grain?!”. Well, in truth most Americans do eat that much, and sometimes more! The problem is that they are eating the wrong kinds (mainly refined grains) and they are often eating it all in one sitting (thus they aren’t even realizing how much grain they are eating!). Think about restaurant plates of pasta, which can be up to 6 ounces of grain (1/2 cup pasta=1 ounce grain). That’s an entire day’s worth in one sitting, which most people don’t even consider a problem.