When size matters: What’s on your plate?

I spent last weekend in New York visiting my sister Loreen. To make this trip I usually drive or fly from Toronto to New York City (NYC), but this time my parents and I drove across the border to Buffalo, then took the train to NYC’s Penn Station, and a train to Huntington on Long Island where Loreen picked us up to drive the short distance to her home.

Rainbow over La Casa Cafe on Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Solonga, Long Island, New York

A rainbow appears over La Casa Cafe on Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga, Long Island, New York.

It was Loreen’s birthday last Sunday and we marked her special day with a dinner at La Casa Cafe, a beachfront restaurant in Fort Salonga. La Casa is one of the few restaurants right on the beach on the North Shore of Long Island. (It is Zagat-reviewed and you can read Zagat members’ reviews online.) The night we were there was apparently the last night the restaurant was open for the season. (I’m not sure when Las Casa re-opens again.)

While the restaurant’s interior is somewhat dated, if you get a seat at a table by the wall of windows, the view of the beach and Long Island Sound will easily distract you from any decor issues you might have. You can see some images of the area surrounding the restaurant by clicking on La Casa Cafe above. I snapped the image to the left mostly to get a picture of the rainbow although I should probably have been concentrating on getting a good picture of the restaurant. In addition to Loreen’s birthday we were celebrating the end of a couple days of rain!

A heaping serving of lasagna for the birthday girl. The portion could probably feed 2 or 3 people.

A heaping serving of lasagna for the birthday girl! The generous portion could feed 2 to 3 people.

The menu is Italian and the portions are huge. You will not go home hungry! The four of us each left with at least half of our meal wrapped up and ready to reheat and enjoy again the next day.

Restaurant portions have been increasing in size for some time. Just think of the mammoth muffins served with uber-sized cups of coffee, the seemingly bottomless portions of soft drinks fast food restaurants offer up, and the mountains of french fries that often accompany burgers and sandwiches. Of course, in the long run, excessive portions mean more calories and fat in your diet than you need. This can lead to serious weight gain and health problems.

If you’ve wondered about serving sizes and just how much food should really be on your plate, consider the advice about portion sizes recently offered by dietitian Leslie Beck.

Here’s what she suggests are some ways to help visualize what a Canada’s Food Guide serving looks like:

  • 3 ounces meat, fish, chicken = 1 deck of cards
  • 4 ounces tofu = 1/2 baseball
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter = 1 golf ball
  • 1.5 ounces cheese = 3 dominoes
  • 1/2 cup pasta or rice = 1/2 baseball or a small fist
  • 1 pancake or waffle = a 4-inch CD
  • 1 small muffin = a large egg
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables = 1/2 baseball or a small fist
  • 1 cup salad greens = 1 baseball
  • 1 small baked potato = size of your computer mouse
  • 1 medium-sized fruit = 1 baseball
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine = tip of your thumb

To avoid ‘portion distortion’, keep these visuals in mind when you sit down to eat.

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