It’s Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Take a 100 Meal Journey: Make Small Changes, One Meal at a Time”. It’s a great chance to reflect on what small, healthy changes we can all make in our food choices and habits, including portion sizes.
Consider the following:
How many times do we overeat when we are presented with a large, delicious-looking plate of food? Do we know when to stop eating because we are full and not because we’ve eaten every last bite? Just think about how easy it is to sit down with a bag of chips or popcorn and eat more than our share’s worth.
I know I’m guilty of these things at times.
Over the past few decades, larger portions have become normal. The size of dinner plates has increased, packaged goods come in larger quantities, and restaurants serve meals so large that they skew our perceptions of what a “normal” portion size actually looks like. Undoubtedly, larger portions play a role in how much we eat and can contribute to excess weight gain. When larger portions, especially larger portions of less nutritious foods, become part of our daily norm, they can impact our health and well-being in the long run.
If portion sizes are an area you struggle with, now is a great time to start making small changes! Consider the following tips to help you begin:
- Become familiar with the recommendations for total daily servings for your age and gender and what a serving size looks like, according to Canada’s Food Guide. Take a look at this handout on estimating portion sizes using your hands.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables at mealtimes. Increasing the amount of vegetables you put on your plate will help moderate the portions of other foods.
- When eating out, ask for a to-go container with your meal and place some of your meal in it before taking your first bite. Or split the meal with a friend.
- Instead of taking the whole bag, place a couple handfuls of chips or popcorn into a small bowl to prevent mindless munching.
- Check out your plate size. Consider choosing a smaller plate to help avoid dishing up too much food.
It’s also important to remember to enjoy the food we eat; paying attention to when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Small, conscious changes to what we eat and how much we eat can lead to long-term benefits.
What changes will you make for Nutrition Month?
I’m pledging to switch out some of my portions of meat and poultry for protein alternatives like beans, lentils and chickpeas. I already started by digging out one of my favourite vegetarian recipes, which I’m sharing with you below. I hope you enjoy!
From Chef Michael Smith
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
- Splash of vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- Small knob of frozen ginger (*see tip below)
- 1 tsp (5 ml) Thai curry paste
- 2 sweet potatoes (or yams), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 19 oz (540 ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 14 oz (398 ml) can of coconut milk
- 1 cup (250 ml) orange juice
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- Sprinkle of sea salt
- 1 cup (250 ml) frozen green peas
- Several handfuls baby spinach
- ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro (optional)
- Add a splash or two of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and sauté them until they’re lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.
- Grate the frozen ginger into the pan and add the Thai curry paste. Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice, peanut butter, and salt. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peas, spinach and cilantro.
- Serve over rice.
*Tip: I like to store whole, unpeeled ginger in the freezer and grate it as needed. If sealed in a bag or container, it’ll keep for many months so I always have some on hand.
About Tamara Grafton
Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends