Label Reading, Shopping, Portion Control

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We conducted an online survey of food and nutrition professionals regarding cutting calories. Here is what we found:

The three most important tools for portion control, in order of importance, are:

1) Be aware of Nutrition Facts Labels for number of servings and serving sizes.

2) Use smaller plates and cups.

3) Use the healthy plate rule: 1/2 veggies, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 starch.

65% said that yes, dietary variety does have an impact on the calories that you eat. In other words, try to eat a smaller variety of foods at each meal. All-you-can-eat buffets are an example of too much dietary variety!

Almost 90% said that yes, WHAT you choose is more important than HOW MUCH food you eat. This implies that you need to eat more foods with a lower calorie density.

Here are the best tips on how to cut back on calories:

Label Reading:

• See how many servings are on the label and multiply that by the number of calories. For example, if you have a box of cookies that are 100 calories per pack and there are 6 servings, you are looking at 600 calories per box. And if you have a box of microwave popcorn and there are 60 servings at 130 calories per serving you have 7,800 calories per box! A fun class idea might be to guess how many calories are in a package of Oreo cookies, a box of sweetened cereal, or a quart of ice cream.

• People have a hard time understanding calories, therefore, have visuals so that people know, for example, that 4 Hershey Kisses equal 100 calories.


• It is best if individuals avoid buying foods that they know they are likely to over-

consume. No one can have

just one ounce of potato chips,

cookies, crackers, etc.

• Most people just need to make healthier foods readily available in their home or office. There are so many healthful foods that are conveniently packaged. It might be good to have a display of healthy foods to keep on hand. Ideas include: packaged salads, baby carrots, potatoes, rice, pasta, yogurt, fresh fruit, and frozen fruits and vegetables.

Eating and Portion Control:

• Encourage people to write down what they eat.. Most people don't realize how much they eat in a day or how just a little bit of a few high-calorie foods can really throw their energy budget off base.

• Smaller, more frequent meals help most individuals avoid overeating.

• Use the portion plate to show individuals to fill their plates with the right foods. A lot of people eat second servings - encourage second servings of vegetables only.

• It is helpful to use smaller plates because you tend to want to eat what is put in front of you. The plate will be full but the portion size is greatly reduced. This aids those who feel they need to clean their plates.

• Encourage everyone to think about each meal whether they are eating out or at home. How can you take out 100 calories from a meal? Some ideas include: leave the cheese off that sandwich; have water instead of your usual 20 oz. soda; skip the bread at the table; use vinegar instead of fatty dressing; order smaller portions.

• If most people substituted fresh fruit and vegetables for snack foods, they would cut out quite a few calories from their diets. It may be a good activity to figure this out in a class.

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