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Meal Planning and Shopping

The first step in a hassle free and healthful diet is good planning. Your time is valuable, and you want to make every minute count. Plan your meals for the week. Use the American Heart Association dietary guidelines to plan nutritious and satisfying menus that include lots of variety, Consider portion sizes as you plan.

Portion Control

When you're planning meals or out shopping, keep estimated portion sizes in mind. Serving sizes can be difficult to visualize. Few of us weigh or measure the food we eat. Most of us, however, can tell the difference between 1 cup and 1/2 cup. Keep in mind, for example, that a reasonable of cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse.

When you divide foods into servings or are counting your day's intake of nutrients, be honest about the size of the portions you eat. When you consume twice as much of a certain food as the listed serving size, remember that you are eating double the amount of calories, fats, cholesterol and sodium.

Restaurant portions are particularly large these days, making it easier to get used to eating more and more food at each meal.

Studies show that most Americans are still members of the "clean plate club". No matter how large the serving, we will eat everything on our plates. This has led experts to conclude that there is a clear connection between growing portions and growing waistlines.

What's a Serving?

6 or more servings of grain and whole grain products and legumes each day

One serving =

  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread
  • 1/2cup cooked cereal or 1 cup flaked cereal
  • 1/2cup cooked rice, pasta, or grain

5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day

One serving =

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, or pear
  • 1 cup raw leaf greens or 1/2 cup cooked vegetable
  • 3/4 cup fruit or vegetable juice

3 or more servings of fat free or low fat milk products for most adults

One serving =

  • 1 cup fat free or low fat milk or yogurt
  • 1 ounce fat free or low fat choose
  • 1/2 cup fat free or low fat cottage choose

2 servings of lean meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetarian protein each day. Include at least two servings of fatty fish each week.

One serving =

  • 3 ounces cooked (4 ounces raw) lean meat, poultry, or seafood
  • 1/4 cup canned tuna, salmon, or sardines (packed in water)
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils

Source: American Heart Association and Healthy Choice © 2004 ConAgra Foods, Inc

Adapted by Editorial Staff, January, 2006
Last update, August 2008


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