Let’s consider our portion sizes…

It’s not always the foods we choose that are the problem when it comes to managing our weight or our blood sugars.  Sometimes we are just eating too much!  Whether the calories are coming from healthy whole foods or higher calorie foods, any time we eat or drink more energy than our body needs, the extra energy will be stored as fat.

Let’s take a few minutes to consider whether we can start to reduce the amount of food we eat and I will give you a few tips and tricks to make these changes.

Our portion sizes have grown over the last 20 years, so what we believe to be a portion is often 2, 3 or even 4 times the size of an actual serving size. This can lead to an increase in our calorie, fat and sugar intake, and over time, weight gain.


Here are some things to consider when you are eating and drinking foods that are often served in large portion sizes…


What changes can we make?

1. Switch the dishes you use at home: Use smaller plates and bowls.  This will help you to serve yourself less, but it will still look like a good portion of food–it’s trickery for your eyes.

2. Measure out your portions for a few days to see what servings of food look like on your plate.  Aim for at least 1 cup of vegetables (or more if you can), 1 – 1.5 cups of starch with dinner (smaller amounts for women), 3-4 oz of protein for women and about 6 oz protein for men at dinner (3 oz = size of a small deck of cards or size of your palm, thickness of your baby finger)

3. If you are out for a meal, ask for a container to take food home in and put half of your meal in there before you eat your meal.  Yeah!  You get to have a delicious meal twice, and you save yourself cooking for a meal!

4. Avoid having serving dishes of food on the table where you are eating–otherwise known as the See-Food diet.  When it is in front of us, we are much more likely to go for seconds because of the constant reminder that it is there.  If we have to get up for seconds, we may be less likely to do so.  Keep extras away from where you are eating, or even put extras away into the fridge right away to avoid picking at the leftovers after the meal.

5. Along those same lines–avoid going for seconds, or WAIT 10-15 minutes before deciding whether you need seconds.  Give your body some time to register the food you have eaten.  When going for seconds, go for more vegetables first.

6. Eat SLOWLY!  Put your fork down between bites.  Take sips of water between bites.  Use chopsticks.  Enjoy good dinnertime conversations.  Pacing your eating means you are giving your body time to register your fullness.

7. Pre-portion your snacks–put chips, popcorn, candies, chocolates, ice cream etc. into small bowls or ramekins.

8. Limit your food choices–have you ever noticed how much more we eat at a buffet or potluck compared to when there are fewer choices for food?  When we want to try a lot of different foods, the more that is available, the more we will eat, so, have less variety available, avoid buffets, stick with one protein, one starch and 2-3 vegetable options at a meal.  If going to a potluck, bring a healthy food that you want to eat that is packed with vegetables!

Last thing. At meal times, always aim to have half of your plate as vegetables, a quarter of your plate as starch and the other quarter as your protein!!

Make your plate look like this! Keeping in mind that this plate is 9 inches in diameter, compared to most of our plates that are 12 inches or more!!

Now it’s time for you to set a goal.  What is one thing that you are going to do to try to reduce your portion sizes???  Who is brave enough in the group to share their goal and be the first to post a comment on the blog???

Andrea, RD



New Study shows marked improvement in diabetes related complications.

New Study shows marked improvement in diabetes related complications.
I came across this article and it was featured on several new casts in April. It looked at the change in diabetes related complications from 1990 to 2010. The article itself is a hard read for a lay person but I’ll try to summarize.
Over two decades, the study observed an amazing reduction in diabetes related complications. Specifically there was a two thirds (67%) reduction in the chance of having a heart attack and the risk of stoke and amputation decreased by about 50%. There was also a 28% reduction in the progression to severe kidney disease (ie. requiring dialysis).
There are probably may factors that account for the improvement in outcomes of patients with diabetes. The authors and many healthcare professionals feel that a great deal of the improvement is related to better diabetes care and advances in medicines over those twenty years. I certainly have seen vast improvements in my own practice outcomes over the twenty years. Better blood sugar control, better blood pressure control, smoking cessation and statins (cholesterol lowering medicines) have all likely contributed to these advances.
I think this sort of data really reinforces what we are trying to accomplish with our diabetes program at the Markham FHT. Helping our patients to achieve their targets, quit smoking, stay active and eat healthier are major thrusts of our programs. This kind of data explains why we stress the importance of controlling your blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Not specifically address in this study but another important thing to remember is the data that shows the huge positive impact of staying physically active. Here are just a few examples:
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced weight
  • Better blood sugar control
  • Improved cholesterol profile
  • Improved cardiovascular outcomes
  • Reduced cancer risk
  • Improved sense of well-being and mental health measures
It’s not just about medications. There is so much we all can do to improve our health by staying active and eating right.
One final message – don’t forget to access the resources at the Markham Family Health Team to help you achieve your health goals. You can access the help of our clinical diabetes educator, dietitian, pharmacist, chiropodist and family physicians to address your concerns related to diabetes.
Here is a link to the article if you’re interested:
Dr. Bill

So you want to make changes to your diet…

I have been trying to figure out where to start with blog posts about diet changes that will help with blood sugar management and achieving a weight that is healthy for you.  I have finally decided to start with some basics and then will take other various topics and go into more depth about them.  I would love some feedback on areas that you struggle with so I know that the information is applicable to you.  Remember–if you have questions about something specific, it is common that others are thinking the same thing and may be too shy to ask, so ask away!!!

To get you started, here are some things to ask yourself:

1) Am I eating breakfast every day, within an hour or so of waking up?

Breakfast eaters tend to have more success with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.  It is important to get the metabolism going in the morning, to help give you energy through the day, to reduce cravings and over eating later in the day, and to make sure you get important vitamins and minerals in your diet.  Many people who tend to skip breakfast tell me they are not hungry in the morning.  This could be because they have eaten too much in the evening, leaving them somewhat full in the morning, or it could be that their body is just not used to eating in the morning and they have lost those hunger signals.  We can retrain our body to be hungry in the morning by feeding it daily at that time.  Start with something small, like a yogurt or piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter or a small apple or berries.  Slowly build it up to have a balanced breakfast that includes some fibre, lean protein and that is low in added sugars.


3/4 cup cooked oatmeal (not instant) with 1 tbsp peanut butter (melted on top or mixed in…delicious), cinnamon, 1/2 banana, 1 cup low fat milk

3/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup mixed berries (you can use frozen and they will flavour the yogurt nicely!!), 3/4 cup high fibre cereal (look for something that has at least 4 g fibre and 8 g of sugar or less per 30 g serving).  Men may need to add a slice of whole grain toast (aim for 15 g carbohydrate per slice) with peanut butter or a boiled egg.

Breakfast on the go could be 1-2 slices of whole grain toast with low fat cheese or peanut butter, 15 grapes and a cup of milk or 100 g yogurt.


2) How often are you snacking?  What are you snacking on?  Are you HUNGRY when you are snacking or are you eating because you are: bored, frustrated, upset, influenced by others eating, used to eating at that time?

Snacking can be important, especially if we are going longer than 4-6 hours without eating a main meal.  Snacking can help us reduce our portions sizes at meal times by managing our hunger between meals.  It can help keep our blood sugars more stable over the day, to avoid those highs and lows.  It can be an important source of good nutrients and it can be an enjoyable part of our day.

Unfortunately, snacking can also lead to excess calorie intake, excess intake of things like sugars and fats which may not be good for our diabetes or our heart or our health.

Instead of the word snack, think of it as a ‘mini-meal’.  This can sometimes help us make better choices, as often snacking brings up images of chips, chocolate bars and the like.  These are okay to have in moderation, but if we can include healthy snacks at least 80% of the time, then we’re on the right track.

Plan your snacks out and have foods available for when you may need them.  Try to include some protein in the snack to help keep you satisfied longer.  Some options may include:

100 g yogurt cup with 10-12 almonds

1 small (size of tennis ball) apple with 1 oz cheese  (think individually wrapped Babybel cheeses or a cheese string)

1/2 whole grain pita with 2 tbsp hummus

100 g container cottage cheese (plain) mixed with 3/4 cup berries

2-4 whole grain crackers (e.g. Mary’s Crackers, Finn Crisp, Ryvita) with a tbsp of peanut butter or 2 tbsp hummus (maybe some sliced tomato or cucumber on top!)

1/2 cup whole grain cereal with 1/2 cup milk

Do you have any great snack suggestions???

Before you have your snack, ask yourself a few questions.

1) Am I physically hungry (is my stomach growling? does my body need food?)?  Or am I eating because I am bored, or sad, or because the commercial I was just watching showed a great picture of….

2) How long is it until my next meal? (If it will be 4-6 hours or more between meals, then yes, eat something.  If your meal is less than an hour away and your blood sugar is not low, maybe you can wait for the meal)

If you are not physically hungry and the answer to question 2 is not within the parameters, try to distract yourself by calling a friend, going for a walk, doing a hobby instead of eating.  Otherwise, our snacking calories will add up to more than we need.

More to come….am looking forward to your feedback and questions!

Andrea, RD