Restaurant Portion Distortion

Learn what--and how much--you should eat, using the USDA's dietary guidelines.

Restaurant Portion Distortion

Managing portion sizes is tricky when you eat at restaurants where servings are typically supersized. See how this typical restaurant meal adds up for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet based on Food Guide Pyramid recommendations:

Typical Restaurant Dinner: One pasta side (1 1/2 cups pasta): 3 ounces grains One piece garlic bread: 2 ounces grains Chicken entrée: 6 ounces meat Tossed salad (2 cups): 2 vegetables Salad dressing: 3 to 4 teaspoons fat

Pyramid Daily Recommendations* Grains: 6 ounces (half of which should be whole grain) Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups Fruits: 2 cups Milk and Dairy: 3 cups Meat and Beans: 5.5 ounces Oils: 6 teaspoons Discretionary Calories: 265 Total calories: 2,000

Add a soda to the restaurant dinner, and you have consumed nearly all your fat and discretionary calories for the day―and probably your allotment of protein and grains―in one sitting.

The secret to navigating through oversized offerings is to keep one strategy in mind: downsize. Order appetizers or small plates instead of an entrée. Share dessert. And pack up the leftovers for another meal.

* 2005 Pyramid Daily Recommendations: Based on an average 40-year old woman who participates in physical activity an average of 30 to 60 minutes per day.

A Day's Worth of Food Take a look at examples of foods and serving sizes for an 1,800-calorie pyramid meal plan.

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