MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis - Food and Fitness



Gateway to Health Challenge


Week 1


small, medium, large burgersIs Bigger Better?

Bigger is Better is the marketing scheme that many restaurants and food manufacturers have adopted. But, is bigger really better when it comes to eating?


There is no denying that food portions have grown astronomically in America in recent years. A recent study found that a “large” order of French fries at McDonalds in 2002 was the same size as a “super-size” was in 1998. Hardees monster thick burger serves up two-thirds of a pound of ground beef plus 4 strips of bacon and 3 slices of cheese at 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat. That is about three times the meat recommended for a serving, almost all the calories, and about twice the fat recommended for one day for an average person.


Research tells us that when presented with bigger servings, people of all ages tend to eat more than when given more moderate food servings. Is it any wonder, then, that as a nation we too are getting bigger along with these outrageous food portions?


Nutrition experts generally distinguish between portions and serving sizes. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat while a recommended serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat. Nutrition advice is generally based on standard serving sizes like those found in MyPyramid or from the American Heart Association and similar groups. Knowing and following standard servings helps make sure we get the nutrients our bodies need in the amounts that are best for good health, without overloading on calories.

Some visual cues to help judge standard serving sizes are:

3 ounces of cooked meat, fish or poultry = a deck of cards
cup of cooked vegetables, fruit, pasta or rice = a light bulb

1 cup of chopped fruit or vegetable = a baseball
1 medium fruit = a tennis ball

1 ounces of natural cheese = 3 dominoes



A great way to learn to estimate a recommended serving is to measure out a serving and place it on your own dishes so you can see what it looks like. You may be surprised at how large vegetable servings appear. After a few times, you will get quite accurate at estimating recommended servings without resorting to measuring cups.


Learning to estimate recommended servings helps us eat reasonable portions. When you know that a two-third pound hamburger is three servings, you can choose to divide it with a friend or order a smaller portion. You can avoid automatically eating more food than you have appetite for, and feel much less stuffed and uncomfortable after meals. By being present mentally when you eat, smaller portions can satisfy you better than larger ones eaten mindlessly.


When eating out, you may be served very large portions or you may have the option for smaller or half-size portions. Part of this process of healthful living is to create environments that foster and support choices. You can help by telling restaurant management you enjoyed having a smaller option, or encouraging them to offer such an option. If speaking up is not your style, you may want to write a short note on the bill like “I enjoyed the taste of my food. I would appreciate the choice of a small portion.” Or, “Eating is one of life’s great pleasures! Thank you for offering smaller portion sizes.”

If the cold winter weather has kept you indoors recently, you are probably missing the joy of movement. Get up from the couch and head straight for the library or video rental store for an aerobics video. Whether you’re into country, Latin, soul or rock, you can find a video or DVD that will get you up and moving in the comfort of your own home. For example, the St. Charles library system has 11 titles alone under aerobic dancing and 14 more under aerobic dancing video recordings. (Not sure what the difference is? Neither am I!) Get moving and banish those winter weather blahs!


(provided by University of Missouri Extension, Greta Hopke)


Low Carb diets may not be the answer


Low carb diets promote rapid weight loss at first due to loss of water.


With every one gram of carbohydrate stored, your body also stores approximately 3 grams of water. When carbohydrate intake is very low, the body uses stored carbohydrates, called glycogen. With every gram of glycogen taken from storage and used as energy, the body also loses 3 grams of water. This illustrates when following a low carb diet the initial weight loss is due mostly to the loss of water, not the loss of excess fat.


This rapid weight loss at the beginning of the diet can offer a false sense of success. Once carbohydrates are increased to an adequate amount in the diet, carbohydrates will be stored along with water, which may cause a weight gain. The weight gain may possibly give the dieter a sense of failure and feeling that the low carb diet is the only answer to keeping the weight off.


When trying to lose weight, the best answer is to eat a healthy diet and be physically active. A good tip when analyzing your diet is: compare it to the new Dietary Guidelines.


6-11 servings of grains/breads, try to make at least 3 servings whole grain


  • 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products
  • For protein choose 2-3 servings of lean meat or poultry, beans, or nuts
  • And of course, use sugar and fats sparingly.


(provided by University of Missouri Extension, Greta Hopke)


Make Physical Activity Fun


If the cold winter weather has kept you indoors recently, you are probably missing the joy of movement. Physical activity that is fun and enjoyable may be one of the most important factors for long term success in your fitness plan. If you enjoy what you do, you are more likely to be motivated to continue with a physically active lifestyle and fitness plan. Here are some ideas of things you can do indoors while the weather is still cold.


  • Tai Chi
  • Volleyball
  • Ballroom or salsa dancing
  • Water ballet
  • Bowling
  • Exercise bands or tubing

Here are some tips for making Fitness more enjoyable:

  • Exercise to music
  • Exercise with a friend or family member
  • Include variety into your plan, for example: dancing, walking, swimming, etc.
  • Plan the program to fit into your daily life
  • Don't be upset if results are not immediate, give yourself time and continue to add challenges and variety!

(Source: Prentice, W. (2004). Get Fit, Stay Fit. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, p. 51-53.)


If you have difficulty thinking of new or fun ideas, think back to your favorite activities you enjoyed as a child. Maybe you used to love riding bikes or playing games in the backyard, or sledding in the snow, why not make those activities part of your physical activity?!

Calendar of best buys in

fresh fruits and vegetables


Eat well for health and pleasure by including plenty of fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks. Choose fresh produce in season for highest quality, best flavor and lowest prices. Here is a list of the fruit and vegetables that are in season for the month of March.


  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach
  • Tangerines


Try making salads this month with fresh spinach, and different toppings such as apples, tangerines and other fruits with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.


(provided by University of Missouri Extension, Greta Hopke)


Quick Black Bean Soup
Yields ~ 5, 1 cup servings


2-15 oz. cans of Black Beans
1-15 oz. can of 99% Chicken Broth
1 Cup of Salsa


1. Place beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly.
2. Combine rinsed beans and chicken broth in a blender or food processor. Blend or puree beans until desired consistency.
3. Pour bean and broth mixture into medium saucepan and add 1 cup of salsa. Heat until begins to boil.
4. Serve warm.
5. Suggested toppings: Additional salsa, fat free or low fat sour cream, shredded cheese of your choice.


Nutrient Analysis per 1 cup serving (without additional toppings):
Calories 172, Total Carbohydrates 30 grams, Fat 1.6 grams, Fiber 9.8 grams, Saturated Fat 0 grams, Protein 10 grams


**Special Notes:

  • This recipe is fast, easy, and tastes great, even if you are not a bean lover!
  • You may use dried beans in place of canned beans, just prepare as directed on the bag of beans. (About 1 cup dried beans is equal to the 2 cans of beans.)
  • Heated leftovers taste great on tortilla chips!





Remember to have fun while preparing meals and developing an exercise program. Get your family involved in the meal planning and make it a fun event. Develop and anticipate an exercise program that gives you energy and makes you feel better as well as a fun thing to do. Do your activity with a team member, family members and/or neighbors to add in the fun.













University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri