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Over the last twenty years, the American diet has changed dramatically both in terms of the quantity and quality of our food intake. In 1970, Americans took in an average of 2,160 calories per day. Today, it has skyrocketed to 2,673 daily calories per person. We are now eating 20-25 percent more calories than we did in 1970!
How did this happen? Interestingly, both plate sizes and portion sizes expanded before our eyes. With the introduction of processed, shelf-ready food in combination with new agriculture policies, food became cheaper and easier to get our hands on than it was in the 1970s. If you combine this with a society that is always looking to get a bang for their buck, you end up with price wars over who can give you the most food for the least amount of money.
Whether you choose to get “supersized” meals at McDonalds, or have the “all you can eat pasta” at Olive Garden, what value-based pricing saves you in cash today may get you tomorrow with the cost of medications and hospital bills.
Many of the meals we are eating out at restaurants contain as many calories as we need in an entire day. Research has shown that the more often you eat out or on the road, the more weight you gain.
Unfortunately, it is not just the quantity of food we are eating that is the problem; it is also the quality or macronutrients, such as fat, carbohydrates and protein. Unlike lean protein, which tends to help increase muscle mass, the added calories in our diet have been made up of grains, sugars, and unhealthy fats. Our body can only store so much glucose (the breakdown products of carbohydrates) as energy. The remainder is stored in the liver and fat cells in an unhealthy manner, creating inflammation and contributing to diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Given that news, what can we do to help our families stay healthy, or improve our health in this kind of environment?
Here are a few tips to help every family survive and thrive when it comes to portion sizes:
*When eating out, ask for a to-go box and take half of your meal home.
*Try to order protein, such as meat or fish, or plant-based food such as tofu, over carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes.
*When eating out, ask to hold the starch (pasta, potatoes, rice) and double up on the veggies.
*When serving food at home, use smaller plates for the main course, and larger ones for the salad.
*When eating at home, try to buy fresh, local produce in season. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
*When plating your food, make half of the plate veggies and salad. The other half should be split into 2/3 protein, and 1/3 carbs. The starchy carb items should be the smallest part of your plate.
*Have your family get up and serve themselves. Do not leave the food on the table, or everyone will eat more.
*When eating, just eat! Refrain from watching TV, using electronics or reading a magazine or book.

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