When Bigger Isn't Better
by Regina Rosenberry
This article was featured in the Sept/Oct 2016 issue of Daughters of Promise. Click here to download this issue.
I buy a 20 ounce bottle of Coke and drink to the last dribble. I open a package of Twinkies and eat both of them. M-m- m-m. I have an individualized bag of chips with my hoagie and eat the whole bag – well, not the bag, but all the chips. And before I go to bed, I have myself a bowl of ice cream. Several large scoops hit the spot just fine.
So what is wrong with the above picture?
On the back of prepackaged foods and drinks is a food label. At the top of the label, the manufacturer provides the number of servings in that package or bottle as a way to measure food based on its nutrition. The size of the serving will determine the amount of calories, fats, and nutrients. If the label says one serving, than the calories, fat and sugar listed beneath is the amount I will get in consuming the whole thing. If the label says two servings, than the amounts listed are for only half the package or bottle. But who only drinks half a bottle of Coke? Because one serving contains 120 calories and 32 grams of sugar, I will consume 240 calories and 64 grams of sugar (1/3 cup) with both servings.
And therein is the problem. A big problem. We the people are used to super-sized, extra-large, big-gulp servings. We have become trained and tricked with an excess of food; our minds and bellies no longer know what a natural serving size is since serving sizes are far bigger than they were in the past. Especially when it comes to prepackaged, not-really- good-for-us food. According to the National Institute of Health, food portions have doubled or tripled in the last twenty years. In turn, obesity rates have doubled with Americans being twenty-five pounds heavier than thirty years ago.
Is a serving size a double or triple cheeseburger? A bag of Combos that brags 20% more? McDonalds’ one-dollar 32-ounce sweet tea? King-sized pack of Reese’s Cup? A twin pack of Hostess cakes?
Opposite these man-made, nutrient-empty foods, we have another set of prepackaged, nutrient-rich foods. Gorgeous foods designed by God to support every organ, every system, every cell of our body.
But we Americans turn up our nose. Who wants oatmeal and spinach and apples when we can have fruit loops and French fries and Twinkies? So we eat our way through the day, dining on foods that spike blood sugar, raise blood pressure, work havoc on hormones, and make us fat. In turn, we become concerned for our health, so we go to the doctor and he assures us not to worry; there is a drug for the health issues and a diet plan available. Weight Watcher’s are thrilled to have us join their membership, the drug company is thrilled to take our money, and we are thrilled to have an easy pill to take care of our health problems. All the while, the food companies are thrilled to keep selling us their over-sized, junk-filled foods.
So the modern-day food/health cycle continues, but there’s one important fact we’re forgetting. God created my body—it’s His temple, but He gave to me the responsibility of protecting and caring for it. Along with my freedom of choice comes Biblical commands on self-discipline and self-control, but I’d rather forget about that. As Christians, we agree it’s wrong to harm the body with tobacco and alcohol. So why do we often try to shade the area when it comes to this over-indulgence of not-so- good-for- us food that can affect our health Even the medical world has become worried and is warning us about the out-of proportion amounts consumed in today’s diet. Food has become an addiction, especially the sweet stuff.
Dr. Oz, a famous cardiology doctor says, “The average American adult is eating 150 pounds of sugar a year, or 30 five-pound sugar bags. Less than 100 years ago, the average sugar intake was only four pounds of sugar per person, not 150!”
We joke about feeding our sugar cravings, but it’s no joking matter. Sugar is addicting. Lisa Drayer, author of The Beauty Diet, said “[Sugar] seems to induce and hunger that are comparable in magnitude to addictive drugs. We’ve seen an increase in risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, simply by consuming just one to two sugar-sweetened beverages each day.”
We also have the out-of- proportion servings that come with emotional eating. What’s more comforting than a large slice of triple-layer chocolate cake when I’m feeling blue? Or a bag of kettle-cooked salty chips when the hormones are on the rise?
The Mayo Clinic describes emotional eating as, “a way to soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, sadness, and boredom. Just the hassles of daily life can trigger us to turn to food for comfort. We can become so emotionally addicted, we mindlessly reach for that treat when stressed or angry without realizing what we’re doing.” And that creates the problem. Eating while not in control often results in a quarter of the triple-layer cake disappearing.
From the health issues they cause, these out-of- control servings and food addictions only make us feel worse instead of better like we think. For me, after gaining a few pounds from feasting over Christmas or eating with abandon at summer picnics, I feel yucky, bloated, tired, and unattractive for my husband.
Can we stop the cycle and put this food monster back in its place? One of the first steps in capturing the monster is to understand what a correct serving size is. Here are a few examples for adult servings. Halve the amount for a child.
- Cereal brands consider three-quarter to one cup as a serving. Not a large, filled-to- the-brim bowful.
- Juice is six to eight ounces for a serving.
- Nope, a serving of Oreos isn’t six and counting. It’s only two. That also goes for Chips Ahoy! Cookies as well as other brands.
- Most 20-ounce soft drinks are considered two servings.
- Some Hostess cakes consider one cake a serving even though two or more come in a pack.
- Most chip brands list 15 chips as a serving.
- Ice cream is one-half cup. I’m not joking. Check the box for yourself.
- Whipped topping is two tablespoons.
- Hershey’s chocolate syrup serving is two tablespoons.
- Ritz crackers are a serving of five.
And then we come to the healthy stuff like vegetables and fruits—foods that build our body’s health instead of destroying it. What is considered a serving for these foods? If I ask a child, the answer would be one bean, five peas, zero spinach.
- Children should eat three to five servings of vegetables a day with a serving being one-half cup for cooked veggies and one cup for leafy greens. Congratulations! Your child can eat at least two cups or more of this yummy healthy stuff per day. I’m sure the children will be thrilled. Or not.
- Fruit should be around one to two servings a day with a serving equaling one cup of canned or chopped fruit or one piece of fresh fruit like a medium-sized apple.
- Adults should have at least nine servings of vegetables and fruits a day.
Hmmm, we seem to have this serving thing switched around. Our servings of ice cream are the amount of peas we should be eating. And our servings of peas are the amount of ice cream we should enjoy.
To help envision a correct serving, measure the exact amount into a bowl. My family was amazed (actually dismayed) when they saw what a half-cup of ice cream really looked like. Another trick to judge a correct serving size is to compare it with an object you’re familiar with.
- A serving of cheese would be four squares the size of dice you use in playing games.
- A serving of meat should be the size of your palm.
- One cup of breakfast cereal is about the size of an adult fist.
- A half-cup of fresh fruit is the size of a baseball.
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter equals the size of a ping pong ball.
- A one-half cup serving of pasta or rice is the size of half a baseball.
- One-fourth cup of raisins equals the size of a large egg.
Filling my plate with God’s nourishing foods gives my body what it craves and needs to do its job well as designed. In turn, that gives me the energy and health needed (if God so wills, of course) to be a good mom to my children, and a supportive wife to my husband. We can stop this food monster and take back the personal responsibility of our eating choices. Who will take the challenge and join me?