Q: I’ve often read that Americans are getting fatter and fatter. But I’ve noticed that serving sizes seem to be getting larger and larger. Do you think there could be a connection?

A: Mary Wilson, R.D. says ” Absolutely! Portion sizes are bigger than ever! Sure you may have had a salad or a turkey sandwich at lunch, or a bagel for a snack. But is it a huge restaurant salad with chunks of cheese and bacon and creamy dressing? Does the turkey sandwich have half pound of meat on a sub roll? Is it a huge five-ounce bagel loaded with cream cheese?

Managing our weight means increasing physical activity and watching portion sizes. And small changes do make a big difference over time. Just cutting your fat intake by one teaspoon per day can help you lose almost five pounds per year.

To keep your weight at a healthy level, it’s a good idea to take a close look at how much you really eat. Here are a few tips:

  1. Share a restaurant entree with a friend or bring home half for the next day’s lunch. Round out the meal with fresh fruit.
  2. Look at the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label. Are you eating twice that amount? If so, double the calories listed for one serving.

Most of us eat more than we think. For one day, measure your cereal, pasta, meat, parmesan cheese and other foods to determine your serving size. Learn what one serving looks like and modify your portions accordingly.

Remember that there are some foods you should be eating more of; Vegetables, fruits, and grains. So load up on low-calorie veggies and cut down on fatty meats, cheeses, sweets and treats which are loaded with calories.”

For more information about portions:

Q: Does “low-fat” mean “low-calorie?”

A: Not necessarily. Mary Wilson, Registered Dietitian explains “Fat itself is a concentrated source of calories. So reducing the fat content may trim calories, but carbohydrate-rich ingredients may take their place and keep the calorie count up. It’s essential to read the Nutrition Facts on the food label to really know what you’re getting.

For example, let’s compare the regular Fig Newtons with their fat-free version. One regular Fig Newton has 55 calories, 1.25 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrate. The fat-free Fig Newton has 50 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrate. Huh? Yeah, the fat is gone but the calories are still there. How can that be? Well, the regular Fig Newton is slightly larger (1.5 grams) than the fat-free one which accounts for the 5 calorie difference. So what’s the benefit in buying the fat-free Fig Newtons? Yes, you do save 1.25 grams of fat but you don’t really save much in the way of calories.

You can see it’s not only important to read the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label -so you know whether buying the low-fat or fat-free version is all it’s cracked up to be  -but you also need to check the price and the package size to make sure you’re not being gouged!”

To learn more about the food label: