Portion Size and Healthy Eating for Seniors

If you are a senior trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, portion sizes matter significantly. American seniors tend to have a distorted idea of what constitutes healthy portion sizes. Dieticians claim that this is largely through no fault of their own. According to the National Institutes of Health, food portions in restaurants in the United States have doubled or even tripled in size over the past 20 years. The National Institutes of Health note that these portion size increases have a definite correlation to the obesity epidemic we are seeing across the United States in recent years.

An important aspect of healthy eating for seniors is portion control. In this article, we provide an overview of some key facts and factors associated with portion control for older Americans.  

Reality of the Actual American Diet

Far and away, one of the most significant contributing factors to weight gain is incorrect portion sizes. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to incorrect portion sizes. The average American today consumes about 3,770 calories daily. It is vital to understand that this amount of calories is almost twice as much as the recommended intake for more individuals.

The bigger issue is that an abundance of these calories come from empty food selections, including cake, pies, cookies, donuts, sugary beverages, ice cream, potato chips, French fries, and fast food. In the end, not only are we choosing the wrong foods, but we are also doubling the portions we eat from these poor selections. As an additional thought, most meal servings found in restaurants are two to three times larger than what our bodies require in one sitting. 

Benefits of Managing Portion Size

There are several significant benefits associated with maintaining an appropriate portion size. These include:

  • Better digestion
  • Improved satiety
  • Weight loss and appropriate weight maintenance
  • Glucose or blood sugar balance

Measuring Portions

The key to adjusting to healthy portions or maintaining them is to measure properly. There are a couple of ways in which people measure portions that we discuss with you here:

  • Using weight
  • Using hands

Using Weight

Weighing food is far and away the most accurate manner in which portion size can be established and controlled. However, it is only possible, let alone practical, if you are preparing a meal at home. It is wholly impractical and impossible when you are dining out.

In a moment, we do discuss using hands as a means of determining portion size. In an in-depth analysis of portion size, The Globe and Mail reported:

It’s easy to think that you’re eating the correct portion sizes. You measure a salmon filet by the size of your palm and judge the peanut butter you spread on toast to be no more than a teaspoon. Yet, studies have found that most people underestimate their portion sizes, especially for high-calorie foods such as peanut butter, nuts, sauces, and salad dressings. And if you’re hungry, research suggests that you’ll miscalculate portion sizes to a greater degree than you would after eating a meal.

The Globe and Mail wrote, “after weighing and measuring foods for a few weeks, you’ll be able to eyeball portion sizes more accurately.” There is also a recommendation that you use the food scale every once in a while to ensure your portion sizes have not crept upwards. This upward drift in portion size does tend to occur over time.

Using Hands

If you are like many people, you have already been exposed to the prospect of using hands (including a fist) as a means of approximating appropriate portion sizes. In this section, we provide some insights into how your hand can be helpful in determining portion sizes. This is mainly the case after you have spent at least some time weighing portions at home to give you at least some visual reference point to use.

In using your hand as a guide, your meat portion in a meal should not be larger than the palm of your hand. Carbohydrates should not exceed the size of your closed fist.

The size of both of your hands brought together in a cupped fashion, or the shape of a bowl delineates a vegetable or vegetable portion. The correct amount of cheese is the size of your index and middle fingers together. The size of the first phalange of your thumb (the top segment where the thumbnail is located) is the portion size for fats and sugars.

Other Recommendations to Avoid Overeating

In addition to portion control, there are other recommended tactics to assist you in avoiding overeating. These include:

  • Avoid the consumption of packaged as well as processed foods.
  • Read the recommended portions on the labels of the food products and take them into account when eating that particular product.
  • Moderate your consumption of sweets and desserts because, in addition to being of no nutritional value, they also tend to be addictive.
  • Choose small plates to eat your meals.
  • Divide food for four or five meals a day.
  • Avoid eating with distractions such as the television, your computer, or your mobile device, among other things.
  • Put aside about 20 minutes for each meal, and eat it in a quiet place and away from noises.
  • Add more vegetables to each main meal so that half of the dish is composed of these types of foods.
  • Moderate exercise
  • Increase your consumption of water and low-calorie beverages.

If you have more questions about eating wisely and portion size, a good resource for you is your primary care physician. Indeed, if you intend to embark on some diet designed to reduce your weight, you should consult with your doctor in advance to confirm if what you have in mind will be a healthy decision for you. You must be physically capable of responding to a reduction of calories and a new diet plan before embarking on this journey designed to improve your overall health.