The traditional Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid does not list portion sizes. This is one of the criticisms of the pyramid. It is actually a double-edged sword. A crucial reason why this lifestyle is thought to be so successful is that it is not a stringent diet that involves counting calories and measuring and weighing food.
Stringent dieting is not beneficial in the quest for long-term weight management. The cycle goes something like this: You go on a diet, give up your favorite foods, deprive yourself, and lose weight. After a certain time period you then go off the diet, resume old eating habits, and regain all the lost weight. This yo-yo dieting is not only harmful to the self-esteem, it is not healthy.
The Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid is a loose set of guidelines. However, the controversy is that these guidelines are so loose that Americans have introduced their own portion sizes, which are very different from the portion sizes of the Mediterranean people. A typical restaurant meal in the United States contains approximately 2 cups of pasta. This is equivalent to double the portion size recommended for one person. The result is that we are a fatter nation, and obesity is in near epidemic ranges in the United States. Armed with this information, even though it is a departure from the normal Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid, portion sizes will be given here.
The portion sizes are given as a set of guidelines. It is a good idea to measure items occasionally, and put them on your plate in a serving size. That way you have an idea of how a serving size looks on the plate. It is not necessary, or even appropriate, to measure or weigh food daily. The idea is to enjoy food, not be deprived, but consume healthful amounts in moderation.
A 1994 law required standardized food labels be put on packaged food items. These labels make it easier to evaluate foods for calorie and nutrient content. Generally, a standardized serving size, or 1 portion size, is based on the amount that people usually consume. The serving size section is key to understanding the amount 1 portion size equals. For example, on the side of a bag of rice, 1 portion size is given as ¼ cup of dry rice.
The portion sizes and amounts given are normal serving sizes based on food labels. These serving sizes aid one in understanding what is a healthful amount of food to consume. The serving sizes given in this book are meant to give Americans a ballpark figure to work with when trying to adapt to the Mediterranean lifestyle. These serving sizes are guidelines, not absolutes.
Following are some recommendations and guidelines to help you choose portions wisely.
Bread Group: Eat no more than 1 portion of this group at any meal. A single portion size is as follows: 1 slice of bread, 1 (6-inch) pita, ¼ cup dry uncooked couscous, 2 ounces dry uncooked pasta, ½ cup dry uncooked oatmeal, ¼ cup rice (brown rice is preferable), ¾ cup dry unsweetened flake cereals, 1 (6-ounce) potato.
Vegetable Group: Eat as much as you like in this group! Vegetables provide few calories and lots of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Legumes and Nuts Group: Eat no more than 2 portions from this group at any meal. A single portion size is as follows: 1 cup of beans including garbanzo, pinto, kidney, white, split, black-eyed; 1 cup lentils; 1 ounce of nuts including all tree nuts and peanuts.
Fruit Group: Eat no more that 2 portions from this group at any meal. A single portion size is as follows: 1 small (4-ounce apple), 1 small orange, 1 small banana, 1/3 melon, 3 dates, 2 medium-size fresh figs, 1 kiwi, ½ small mango.
Olive Oil: Use often, but use a teaspoon when pouring out of the bottle. Remember that it is very calorie-dense, so you want to keep portion sizes small.
Cheese and Yogurt: Try to consume low-fat and fat-free versions when possible. Do not consume more than 1½ teaspoons of grated cheese and 1 cup of milk or yogurt daily.
Fish and Poultry: Eat 15 ounces per week. A single portion size is usually 3 to 4 ounces. The rule of thumb is 1 serving size is the size of a deck of playing cards.
Eggs: Weekly consumption should be from 0 to 4. This includes eggs used in baking and cooking. A single portion size is equal to 1 egg.
Sweets: Generally 1 portion size is ½ cup. Sweets should be saved for special occasions.
Red Meat: Consume red meat only once a month. A single serving size is equal to 3 to 4 ounces.
Keep in mind that fruits are often large in size and 1 extra-large apple may be equivalent to 3 portion sizes!