Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Super-sized Portions Are the New Normal

The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) new infographic (shown below) is a shocking illustration of how portion sizes over the past 50 years have correlated with America's ever-expanding waistline. The illustration reveals that the average American is 26 pounds heavier than in 1950. According to research by The Lancet published in August of last year, about one-third of Americans are overweight or obese, and that number is projected to hit nearly 50% by 2030. Not coincidentally, since the 1950s the size of an average restaurant hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces. I urge you to examine the graphic, and we've also included a cool little quiz put out by the CDC.

(Click "Start Quiz" below)

We’ve written numerous articles about the declining quality of the foods being produced since the introduction of factory farming and GMO’s into the modern food system, and that remains my biggest concern, but our health issues in America aren’t solely about quality. The reality is that many American’s simply eat too much, so it’s important to consider portion size, especially when dining out. Try ordering meals with smaller portion sizes, taking half of your meal home or even splitting the meal with a friend or spouse. Of course, when it comes to most restaurants, I would never recommend the items listed in this illustration, including: conventially-raised beef, French fries and corn-syrup-filled or even artificially sweetened diet soda.

In addition to reducing portion sizes, here are some other helpful tips from my book, Live Beyond Organic to follow when dining out.

1. Opt for water as your beverage of choice, preferably filtered or bottled (not chlorinated). Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, juice, and soda.

2. Don’t reach for the bread or chips at the table. This includes dinner rolls, bread sticks, sliced bread, muffins, and tortilla chips.

3. Avoid appetizers as much as possible. Eat your soup (grain-, flour-, and dairy-free) or salad before eating your entrée.

4. When ordering soup, make sure no sugar is added. Avoid the use of toppings such as crackers, bacon, cream cheese, or cheese.

5. Choose the house salad over the Caesar salad or other salads with numerous ingredients and toppings. The plainer the salad, the better.

6. Salad dressing is real simple: balsamic vinegar and/or olive oil. Other dressings are full of hydrogenated oils and sugars. It is safer to just order the balsamic vinaigrette as the waiter may not know exactly what is in the other dressings. Also, avoid the croutons.

7. Ask your server how the food is prepared. To avoid some hidden traps in your meal, inquire about the butter, margarine, cream, or oil that may be used in preparing that item. Have your meal cooked in olive oil or butter. Look for the words grilled, poached, baked, roasted, or broiled on the menu.

8. Request that your food be prepared without MSG or sugar.

9. Avoid entrees with a lot of ingredients. Avoid foods that have the following descriptions: fried, buttery, creamy, rich, au gratin, scalloped, béarnaise, Newburg, BBQ, sweet and sour, teriyaki, or breaded.

10. For your main entrée, use the following pecking order when choosing a protein:
  • wild fish
  • wild game (venison or bison)
  • lamb (most lamb is raised well in Australia or New Zealand and fairly well in the States)
  • beef (best if organic or pasture-raised)
  • farm-raised fish (not the healthiest food by any stretch, but still an okay option for dining out)
  • chicken (by far the worst of the biblically clean, conventionally raised animals due to the way factory-farmed poultry is treated and processed)

11. Don’t be afraid to make special requests. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate your dietary needs when possible. Order steamed vegetables instead of mashed potatoes, French fries, or coleslaw.

12. There is no need to dress your food up with salt. Most foods already have salt added to them while being cooked.

13. Breakfast can be real simple if you focus on eggs as your main dish. Mix it up a little by requesting diced tomatoes, peppers, and onions—but no ham, please.

14. If you are eating a light dinner, try a salad with grilled wild fish, topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the dressing.