Thursday, February 17, 2011

That's SO MUCH Food!



In order to promote healthy eating and the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one of my recent major events at work was the New Year, New You event. The event took place each weekend in January and I had a table set up with food models depicting what a well-balanced diet might look like. I used MyPyramid.gov to determine how many servings (approximately) of each food group the average American needs each day, then I displayed the servings on paper plates with these fun food models.


Grains: ~ 5-6 ounces




Vegetables: ~ 3 cups



Fruits: ~2 cups




Milk: ~ 3 cups
(1.5 ounces of cheese counts as one cup. There are 3 ounces of cheese in the picture below.)



Meat and Beans; ~ 5-6 ounces


Oils: ~6-8 tsp
(one packet of Hogsdon Mills travel flaxseed counts as 3 tsp oil)


You wouldn't believe how many people came up to me and said, "Seriously, I have to eat all of this food?!" Yep, this does look like a lot of food! But in truth, many Americans get more calories than this each day, without even realizing it! Can you guess how many calories are depicted in the photos above? It's about 2100 calories, which is a normal amount of food for most Americans. But looking around and seeing that about 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese, indicates to me that many Americans are eating more calories than this each day.


So why does this look like so much food?
  • Many people don't consider two important concepts when they eat; volumetrics and nutrient density. Both of these concepts are important when you're trying to either lose weight, or just be healthier overall. The focus is on eating foods with less calories and more nutrients, per unit of volume, or per serving. If you focus on these two concepts you will get full faster (larger volume of food!) while eating less calories and consuming the right amount of nutrients.
  • To put this into perspective consider that many people are used to getting 500 calories from a very small calorie dense burger or piece of pizza, when they could get 500 calories from a slice of whole grain bread with 1 T nut butter, a cup of yogurt, a piece of fruit, and a string cheese (much greater volume of food, same amount of calories).
  • Most Americans don't get even close to the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies, so seeing a plate full of fruits and veggies does look like "a lot of food" because it takes up a lot of space (volume) on the plate, but also provides very few calories and tons of great nutrients.
  • Many people see all of the grains in the first picture and think, "I am supposed to eat that much grain?!". Well, in truth most Americans do eat that much, and sometimes more! The problem is that they are eating the wrong kinds (mainly refined grains) and they are often eating it all in one sitting (thus they aren't even realizing how much grain they are eating!). Think about restaurant plates of pasta, which can be up to 6 ounces of grain (1/2 cup pasta=1 ounce grain). That's an entire day's worth in one sitting, which most people don't even consider a problem.

QUESTION: What do you think about the concept of volumetrics? Do you use it in your daily eating routine?

One example I have is when I make eggs for dinner. I like using one egg, then the rest egg whites. This allows me to have more volume of food, for fewer calories, and plenty of protein (and lutein, vitamin D, iron, and choline from the real egg). And of course I also add more volume by adding lots of cooked vegetables! More volume, fewer calories, tons of nutrients and taste.

24 comments :

  1. oh I love this exercise -crazy to see all that food!

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  2. ahh wait!! only 2 fruits a day?? umm i eat like 5 or 6? is bad??? i would love your advice!

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  3. Yes, I try to keep volumetrics in mind when I plan my meals. I love adding volume and nutrients to my meals, usually in the form of veggies.

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  4. This is what I do, But I never put the volumetrics label on it.

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  5. It does look like a lot of food when its all laid out like that. Its a great reminder though of what a "daily intake" looks like!

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  6. What a great idea to demonstrate how to use the ypyramid.gov!

    I love the concept of volumetrics. Too many people consume the calorie dense foods instead of the nutrient dense foods (fruits/veggies)!

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  7. I definitely apply volumetrics to my eating most of the time (I do that with my eggs too!) but I would say I eat a serving or 2 more of fruits than suggested and half as much meat/beans.

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  8. I apply volumetrics as well. My #1 tip (and practice myself) is to have fruits and vegetables as snacks, always. They are so filling between the water, fiber, and sheer volumbe! I think the concept of caloric density and volumetrics is a very, very important one! Nice post, Gina!!!

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  9. Im all for volumetrics! I realized I do it all the time specially with the eggs. I didnt know there was an official term for that. But I agree that is a great way to be healthier/loose weight with "less" food and still feel satisfied!

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  10. Neat post! I've never thought about it, but I do use volumetrics. So much more filling! The amount of veggies looks a little low too me, but then again I eat a ton of veggies.

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  11. girl you and nick are SUCH a gorgeous couple :) (this is from your last post haha) seriously i remember last year? when you were struggling in your relationship and had to cut back on blogging (i think?) but you just knew that you were meant to be with nick and did whatever you could to make it work! I LOVE!

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  12. Such a fun exercise! I love the concept of volumetrics - we definitely use it in our daily routine!! Whole grains and lots of fiber is soooo much better than that plate of restaurant pasta you described... While that white pasta isn't filling at all, one serving of chewy, nutty whole grain barley or oats is so satisfying! Same with veggies, etc... A beautiful plateful! :-) YUM! YAY volumetrics! :-)

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  13. Very interesting. I was sort of explaining this concept to my friend at work the other day. She is on a "diet", but the foods she chooses are just wrong and she ends up annoyed at the end of lunch that I had a way better lunch than her and I'm like um... you could have this lunch too haha.

    By the way I just caught up on your last post- you and Nick are the cutest. Also agree on the marriage thing- Eric and I lived together for over 2 years before getting married and we had bought a house a year and a half before. Not a single thing changed after we got married other than we can call each other husband and wife, which really just makes us feel old actually haha.

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  14. I definitely see myself as more of "volume" eater. I love beefing up meals with fruit and veggies that fill me up too!

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  15. I realized a few weeks ago that i wasn't eating enough grains. I amended that problem and have so much more energy!

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  16. I think, if people saw their food spread across the table they would think it was a lot too! I love the volumetrics concept but think most people eat high denstiy/lower volume food. Love the visuals.

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  17. Great tutorial! I know, people think the same thing. I eat 3 bigs meals 400-500 calories and I use the volumetrics method too. I LOVE eating a large meal knowing its healthy and will keep me full for a long time. I think people don't realize what a portion is and of course they are eating the wrong things!

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  18. i LOVE this post. Thank you sssoo much for writing it! Its funny cause I do eat in volume, I make these huge (and I mean huge) salads and top with lentils. The whole thing comes out to about 150 calories. I always have people coming up to me and they say things like "omg you eat so much food!" hahah...but my huge salad is way less calories than the pre packaged granola bar they are having as a snack. Same thing with my breakfast. I eat 1 serving of oatmeal with 1 serving of greek yogurt. It poofs up and looks huge, but not alot of calories. I love it. And I agree, the taste is out of this world awesome. I love whole foods. Thanks for bringing this topic up! I feel like I encounter it alot. ha!

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  19. Hey! That's so funny...I was just talking about volumetrics with my boyfriend today. He saw a programme on TV all about it. I think it's a great concept to educate people on :-)

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  20. Laural (bhealthier)February 19, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Im mixed on volumetrics concepts. I think its helpful to get better food and more of it, but I have to say we need to learn portion sizes (as a nation). volumetrics is almost opposing portion control... saying fill yourself up with more food, which isn't a really healthy idea. I think it all boils down to education and awareness and personal acknowledgment of what you are choosing to consume and why.

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  21. Im mixed on volumetrics concepts. I think its helpful to get better food and more of it, but I have to say we need to learn portion sizes (as a nation). volumetrics is almost opposing portion control... saying fill yourself up with more food, which isn't a really healthy idea. I think it all boils down to education and awareness and personal acknowledgment of what you are choosing to consume and why

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  22. Great post! I always try to fill 1/2 my plate with veggies/fruit and then the rest with grains or proteins.

    I always have troubles with portion size though - how many servings is a fruit and vegetable (ex: how may asparagus is a serving). But I figure I would rather eat too many fruits and veggies then other things.

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  23. Haha, am I the only person who thinks this doesn't look like a lot of food? I feel like I eat a lot more than this. My nut butter and oil portions are outta control! I also eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.

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