Portion control is a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight and improving your overall nutrition.

Portion sizes in America are literally a growing epidemic. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, many food portions in restaurants across America have doubled sometimes even tripled in size over the last 20 years. Larger portions mean more calories consumed, and portion sizes are becoming a key contributor in obesity among children and adults. Portion control is one of the primary keys to maintaining a healthy weight or achieving weight loss goals.

The general perception of whats considered a normal portion size has become distorted because larger portions are everywhere. Portion control can start in your own home by managing the way you fill your plate; it will also help you develop an eye for whats really in front of you whenever you decide to dine out.

The USDAs Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has developed free resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov as a guide for determining how much food should be on your plate over the course of your day.

Time to eat!

All estimations are based upon a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Please consult your physician regarding your personal dietary recommendations.

The general perception of whats considered a normal portion size has become distorted because larger portions are everywhere.

Protein foods

Save a quarter of your plate for lean meats and other proteins. The USDA says that a variety of foods from the protein food group should be consumed each week, such as seafood, beans, peas and nuts as well as lean meats, poultry and eggs.

  • A 3-ounce serving size of fish is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Working in 5 ounces of protein each day is the target.

Grains

The remaining quarter of your plate should consist of grains, at least half of which should be whole grains. Check the product to ensure whole is stated first before the ingredient name.

  • A serving of pasta, rice or dry cereal is cup or the size of a hockey puck.
  • A healthy daily intake of whole grains is 6 ounces.
  • A single ounce could be 1 slice of bread, cup of cooked rice, cereal or pasta, or 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal.

Dairy

When choosing dairy, aim for skim or 1 percent milk due to the lower fat and calorie count. Lower-fat milk still has the same amount of calcium and essential nutrients as whole milk.

  • A daily intake of 3 cups is ideal for bone health.
  • One cup of milk, yogurt or fortified soy milk counts as a serving, or 1 ounces natural or 2 ounces processed cheese can be substituted for a 1-cup serving.
  • One ounce of cheese is equivalent to the size of your thumb. Together milk, cheese and yogurt provide a unique package of nine essential nutrients.

Vegetables and fruit

A well-balanced meal starts with half of your plate filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and spinach. Fruits are a great, sweet alternative for desserts and snacks.

  • A serving of fresh fruit is cup or the size of a tennis ball, and a 1-cup serving of vegetables is about the size of a fist.
  • According to the USDA, 2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit are the daily nutritional standard.

Mediterranean diet: lowering your heart risk

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the popular Mediterranean diet has shown some effectiveness in heading off potential heart disease.

The diet encourages eating a high percentage of fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. Nuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, but not in large amounts. Even subtle variations or differences in intake proportions of certain foods may make a difference in raising your risk of heart disease. For people considered at a high risk for cardiovascular (heart) problems, the Mediterranean diet has shown to significantly lower the chances of major cardiovascular issues.