More and more people are wanting to have a “healthier lifestyle” and part of this is eating healthy foods.  

A more healthful diet starts at the bottom — of the plate!

This is advice for the everyday person who wants to eat a healthier diet, reduce the risk of chronic disease, prevent weight gain and promote a healthy weight.

Portion control is important and for that, begin with the plate — a 9-inch dinner plate.

For the past 20 years, portion sizes have increased significantly, not only in restaurants but also in the home.

Based on information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

• A standard weight muffin 20 years ago weighed 1 ˝ ounces and contained about 210 calories.  

Today a muffin can be 5 ounces and contain more than 500 calories — an increase of about 300 calories.

• A bag of popcorn at the movies 20 years ago contained about 270 calories, while today’s popcorn tub can have up to 1,000 calories.

Even at home portions of hamburger have increased from 6 ounces to 8 ounces; sodas from 12 ounces to 17, according to NIH.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on average, women are consuming about 300 calories more each day than they were 20 years ago, and men are consuming an average of 170 calories more per day.

And, while all caloric intakes are increasing, physical activity is not.  Americans are not balancing those extra calories with extra activity.

Too many calories consumed and not enough burned off has contributed to the obesity crisis this country faces.

A 9-inch dinner plate can help.

Think about portion control as a way of eating a variety of foods in healthy amounts that can promote health and prevent chronic disease.  

Your favorite foods do not have to be eliminated; think about eating a healthy amount.

A portion is what is eaten at one sitting.  

A serving as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate may be more or less than that.

 The key to a healthful diet is portion control.

Many eat portions that are made up of more than one serving.

Take a 9-inch plate (measure the diameter of your dinner plate) and mentally mark off an imaginary wedge that is one-quarter of the area.  

In this quarter, place on serving of protein, such as lean meat, poultry, or fish.  In the remaining three-quarters of the plate, put fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

When determining the size of one serving, keep it simple.  hese guidelines can help

• 3-ounce serving of lean meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

• A 3-ounce serving of fish is about the size of a checkbook cover.

• A serving of cheese (1 ˝ ounces) is the size of a C battery.

• A 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter is about the size of a golf ball.

• One pancake should be about the size of a CD.

• A serving of cooked rice or pasta is ˝ cup or about half the size of a tennis ball.

• A 1-ounce serving of breakfast cereal is usually 1 cup, except for dense cereals.  A serving of these cereals can be as small as Ľ cup.  

Be sure to read the nutrition label.

Common sense should also be an ingredient in this method.    

Foods that are fried, breaded or smothered in cream gravy should not be a part of the everyday menu.

Why is a 9-inch plate so important?  

The bigger the plate, the more food often placed on it. With smaller plates you are less likely to feel cheated because when you look at the plate, it’s full of food.

Instead of worrying about avoiding foods, go for a variety of colorful foods, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  

These foods are rich in phytochemicals that may help disease prevention.

And, one more thing:  get in touch with your eating habits.  

Are you really hungry, bored, or are you eating because you are stressed?

Many factors contribute to the rising rates of obesity in this country.

To adequately address the problem, we need to get everyone involved.  

Individuals can help conquer this problem by using portion control, physical activity, self-awareness and common sense as part of their everyday behavior.

And, don’t forget the 9-inch plate!

Rita Hodges is the Ellis  County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Contact Rita at 972-825-5175 or programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  The Texas A & M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.