I am usually amazed at how little many people know about nutrition. We all eat, and we do so several times a day. And much of the time we are not eating we spend thinking about what we’ll eat next. For something that we do so often it would seem that we would be better informed. But many people are more knowledgeable about the plot line of their favorite TV show than about the foods they put in their mouths.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the majority of Americans are overweight—about 2/3 of adults are overweight, and almost 1/3 of those have a weight that puts them in the obese range.
While many people say they want to lose weight, they often fail to make a plan for how to go about doing that. Have you heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?” That’s true when it comes to weight loss. But sometimes, planning is not enough if you do not have the right information.
The diet misperception I most frequently encounter relates to the amount of meat needed according to the food pyramid, which is now called MyPyramid. It’s less than you might think.
For a 2,000 calorie diet, which is the reference level set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 5.5 ounces of meat and beans is allotted per day. This amount varies depending on calorie needs. Generally, the daily meat portion ranges from four ounces for a 1,200 calorie diet up to seven ounces for a 3,200 calorie diet, which is the highest calorie level for which portions are defined by MyPyramid. This means that even for those requiring a many calories, seven ounces is the maximum recommended for an entire day.
The fact of the matter is that most people eat more meat than they need. Meat (pork, poultry, beef, etc) is higher in fat than other foods that we should be eating more of, such as fruits and vegetables. At nine calories per gram, fat has more calories than other nutrients; protein and carbohydrate both have four calories per gram. Eating too much meat is an easy way to derail your diet if you are trying to lose weight.
So how do you know how much meat is enough for you? It depends on how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight. You can find this out at www.mypyramid.gov.
You can gauge how much meat you are eating by looking at your palm. The size of your palm (not counting your fingers) is approximately the size of two to three ounces of meat. And thickness matters. A deck of cards is a useful tool—two to three ounces of meat is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. One egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/4 cup cooked dry beans, and 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds are all equal to one ounce from the meat and beans group.
Most people underestimate the number of calories they consume. Getting your protein consumption in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a good step to controlling calories. Controlling your calories can help you to lose weight.