Content contributed by Ricah Lucero and Samantha Presslor, IUPUI Dietetic Interns
November was National Diabetes Month, but you can take steps to prevent or manage diabetes all year long. This is especially important as we enter the holiday season, which can be filled with tempting treats, stressful schedules, and cold winter weather!
Good nutrition is one key step in diabetes prevention and management. Choosing nutritious foods in the right amounts can help you reach your health goals, whether that is controlling your blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, or reaching a healthy blood pressure. However, it can be overwhelming to try to track the exact amounts of each food that you eat. A simple first step is to be mindful of portion sizes.
Serving Size vs. Portion Size
A serving size is the recommended amount of food that is listed on a package or used in nutrition guidelines, such as MyPlate. For example, the serving size of ice cream listed on this Nutrition Facts label is 2/3 cup.
Photos from walmart.com and lmld.org
A portion size is the amount of food that you actually serve yourself and eat. This can be more or less than the recommended serving size. For example, you may fill your bowl with ice cream, which actually holds 1-2 cups. Portion sizes at restaurants have increased over the years, and one entrée can sometimes have 2 or more servings!
Reading labels and monitoring portion sizes can help you limit added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in the foods you eat. In turn, this can promote blood sugar control, weight management, and an overall healthy lifestyle.
A "Handy" Guide for Estimating Portion Sizes
A good way to portion out food is to use measuring cups. However, since you may not always have measuring cups with you, there are other simple ways to estimate portion sizes. One way is to use something that is always with you: your hands!
Different parts of your hands are about the same size as common serving sizes:
Image from fitstylebyshana.com
Estimating Portion Sizes with MyPlate
MyPlate is a another tool that can help you estimate portion sizes and plan balanced meals. The goal is to fill your plate with foods from different groups so you get all the nutrients your body needs. Here are the basic guidelines:
Some people with diabetes may be able to manage their blood sugars by following these simple guidelines at meals. Others may need to look more closely at specific serving sizes.
The image below shows common serving sizes for each MyPlate food group. You will notice that fruits, vegetables, and dairy are measured in "cup equiv", which is short for "cup equivalents". Grains and proteins are measured in "oz-equiv", which is short for "ounce equivalents" These are simply ways of measuring different foods in a way that provides a similar nutrition value. For example, 1 slice of bread has about the same carbohydrate content as 1/2 cup of oatmeal. One egg has about the same protein content as 1/4 cup of beans.
The chart below shows how many servings of each food group the average adult needs each day. Let's say a 40-year-old woman wants to plan out how many servings of grains she should eat each day. The chart lists "5 ounce equivalents", which means she can have 5 servings of foods that each equal 1 ounce equivalent. This could be 1/2 cup of oatmeal at breakfast (1 ounce equivalent), a sandwich with 2 slices of whole wheat bread at lunch (2 ounce equivalents), and 1 cup of brown rice at dinner (2 ounce equivalents).
Your exact needs may be different based on your age, gender, weight, activity level, insulin sensitivity, etc. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and talk to a doctor or dietitian to make a plan that meets your specific needs.
Sarah Wilson, RDN, Nutrition Manager at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns