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 The rate of obesity has doubled among adults and tripled among children and teenagers in the last 30 years. While this is a complex problem with many contributing factors, one thing is for sure, we are eating more now. In fact, according to the USDA, our caloric intake increased by 25%, or about 500 calories per day from 1980 to 2000. There are very few periods in the history of mankind when our caloric intake increased by 25% over a 20 year period. The good news is that it has not increased anymore since 2000 and in fact has come down slightly. The bad new is that our caloric intake is still too high and we must get it under control.


Why are we eating so much more and what can we do to reverse the trend? Once again, it’s complicated. H3’s Registered Dietician, Felicia Spence and Wellness Counselor, Erin Risius believe that a great place to start is with eating more mindfully. In our busy multitasking world, we eat while watching TV, working at our desk, while driving, etc., When we do this, we are paying little attention to what or how much we consume. The research suggests that those who eat mindfully, that is eat slowly, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, both enjoy their food more and are satisfied with less. It is a win-win. 


As important as it is to eat mindfully, there is another major factor that has changed over the last 40 or so years that has influenced what and how much we eat… and that is our food environment. The size of the plates and bowls we serve food in, the size of the glass we pour beverages in and the size of the bag or boxes we take food out of, all unconsciously influence how much we eat. The bigger the plate, the more we serve and thus the more we eat. 


One of the best ways to JumpStart your nutrition and eating habits is to pay attention to your plate. A standard dinner plate used to be about 9″ diameter, and now they are 11″ to 12″. In his book, Mindless Eating, Dr. Brian Wansink reports that people serve themselves 20-30% more food on larger plates than smaller plates. Not because thy consciously wanted more food, but because they unconsciously wanted to fill the plates. 


Below is the recommended plate size and portions. It may seem surprising that the protein is a smaller section than the vegetables because, on the typical American plate, you would find a large piece of steak with a small side of broccoli. 

Healthy Eating Plate


For more information and tips on portion control and ways to set yourself up for success with your nutrition and weight loss goals visit Hilton Head Health. Visit our website to learn more.