Food portions have grown out of proportion to need

Eating Well

March 10, 1998|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Watching "Gone With the Wind" recently, I was struck by a scene where a single rooster was about to become the centerpiece of a special meal for a family of six who were busy planting cotton fields and rebuilding a plantation.

Then I remembered my last trip to Kenny Rogers', where half a chicken was served up in a meal for just one person who works on a computer and lives in a home where appliances do all the work.

And we wonder why we have a hard time controlling our weight!

More and more health organizations are beginning to catch on to the fact that what controls weight gain or loss is total calories eaten vs. total calories spent, not just the fat content of food. Certainly there are health issues involved in food choices, too, and that's where balance enters the picture.

On the plus side, you can eat anything you want. On the minus side, you have to control your portions.

This is especially problematic because our quantity notions are really out of whack. Some examples:

McDonald's now makes a hamburger that contain four meat patties separated by three slices of cheese. Actually, their original 2-ounce hamburger (yes, that little tiny one!) is an appropriate serving for almost everyone except very large young men.

A small serving of fries from most fast food shops is actually enough for three people.

So while these portions may seem unimaginably small, this is a better answer than "turkey only and forever." Burgers and fries can be included, sort of. Complete the meal with a side salad, low-fat dressing and some orange juice and you have a pretty healthy meal, too. That's balance.

On the other hand, some news might be better than we thought. Sixty calories will buy you a fresh orange, or one SnackWells fat-free cookie, or one piece of Godiva chocolate.

So if you've eaten within your calorie budget all day long, and you've had a healthy, well-balanced dinner and want just a taste of something sweet for dessert, you're free to pick the 60-calorie treat that makes you happiest, even a piece of sinfully rich, real chocolate. That's moderation.

And that kind of personal choice is the target of the American Dietetic Association's 1998 National Nutrition Month slogan, "Make Nutrition Come Alive. It's All About You." The idea here is that eating a wide variety of foods, rather than limiting your eating to just a few "safe" foods, increases the pleasure you get from food. And there's a bonus. You're more likely to get all the nutrition you need, too. Now that's good news.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of ADA's campaign to provide you with the basic information you need to make informed food choices and develop the kind of eating habits that will help you achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Over the years, ADA has developed the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics in Chicago, which now offers its popular consumer nutrition hot line. Options include:

800-366-1655 (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays) At this toll-free number you can get a referral to a local registered dietitian for private or group nutrition counseling, or you can listen to recorded nutrition messages in English or Spanish.

900-CALL-AN-RD (900-225-5267, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays). At this fee-for-use number, you can talk to registered dietitians who will answer specific food and nutrition questions.

You can also find ADA's reliable nutrition advice on the Internet at http: //

Registered dietitian Colleen Pierre is the nutrition consultant for Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/10/98

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