Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 17, 2022
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Let’s get moderate

The expression “eat moderately” may seem open to interpretation. It’s not. It’s a specific guideline meaning to eat reasonable amounts of a variety of foods in the right proportions to feed your body with all the necessary nutrients while maintaining a healthy weight.

Most Canadians seem to have a fairly disproportionate reading of “eating moderately.” A 2004 survey estimated that a quarter of Canadians are getting more than 35 percent of their calories from fat,1 which is also the limit beyond which health risks increase. The survey also showed that while adults are consuming a lot of calories, they aren’t reaching the requirements for any of the food groups.

Adults eat 50 percent less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.2 Sixty five percent of men and 72 percent of women aged 31 to 50 consumed only 1.5 portions of food from the milk group (versus the recommended two). Younger men met the minimum requirement for the meat and alternatives group, but women and older men didn’t. Most women didn’t meet the minimum requirement of grains either (five portions daily), while younger men did.

Finally, when the calories from all groups were totaled, the result didn’t match with what Canadians actually eat. 3 The rest of calories (about 23 percent) come from other foods not included in Canada’s Food Guide4 — cakes, soft drinks and added sugars.

Obviously, it’s not easy to always know what eating in moderation should be. But there are tools that can help. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed MyPlate,5 a good guide that visually illustrates the relative amount you should eat from each food group. Use a regular-sized plate and visually separate it in half. One half should be full of fruits and vegetables (use more vegetables than fruit). The other half should be divided between whole grains and lean protein. Every meal should also include a serving from the dairy group.

Next, is the issue of portions. Canada’s Food Guide has examples of what represents a serving.6 But day to day, it may be unpractical and tedious to measure or weigh food. Here are some tips to estimate portion sizes7:

  • The grain product should be the size of your closed fist.
  • The fist also represents a portion of fruit and dairy, which is approximately one cup.
  • If you’re having cooked vegetables, they should fit in your two cupped hands (as if you’re forming a bowl).
  • Your source of protein should fit in the palm of your hand and be no thicker than your pinky finger. This allows for individualized portions. A bigger man for example, needs a bigger portion of protein to be satisfied.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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