Today’s post continues to highlight Nutrition Month (the month of March!), which aims to showcase the unique skills and knowledge that dietitians can provide to the public. This year’s theme is based on taking a 100 meal journey, making small changes one meal at a time.
Earlier this month we took one of the strategies, how to stick to healthy habits, and put a low FODMAP spin on it. If you haven’t already seen it, find it here. Another small change that you can work into your daily meals is adjusting portion size. Many of us know what foods are nutritious choices (think leafy greens and other vegetables) and what we should be eating for good health, but over-eating, even healthy foods, can get in the way of achieving our health and wellness goals which could include having energy, maintaining a healthy weight, or preventing heart disease for example.
Today’s post is all about prioritizing portion sizes. Many of my readers may be following the Low FODMAP diet or a modified diet for healthy digestion, so if you’re one of my IBS’ers, read on for some key information about the importance of portions sizes when trying to avoid FODMAPs and manage your digestive symptoms! Not sure what IBS is? Watch the “What is IBS?” episode of Relief TV to find out!
How to Measure a Food Guide Serving
Most of us have at least heard of Canada’s Food Guide, but how many of us know how much of a food makes up a serving size? The Food Guide provides serving sizes for every food group and gives examples of serving sizes of different types of foods. The purpose of these food guide servings is to make sure that you are eating the right amount of food from each food group, since different food groups provide different nutrients. The only issue with these serving size recommendations is that they are given in grams and millilitres. Getting out a measuring cup to measure your morning cup of milk, or whipping out a scale to weigh your fillet of fish for dinner isn’t a realistic, sustainable habit for people these days! So how do you make sure you’re getting enough (but not too much) of each food group?
Eat Right Ontario has a really handy guide available on their website to help you visualize proper portion sizes for different foods from every food group! No measuring required. Find it here.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are specific types of sugars that naturally occur in foods. FODMAPs are difficult to digest by all humans, but especially for those of us with IBS or other undiagnosed digestive health disorders.
Fructose – found in some fruits and honey
Lactose – found in most dairy products
Polyls – found in some fruits and vegetables as well as added artificial sweeteners (sorbitol and mannitol)
Oligos – include fructans found in wheat, rye, onions, and garlic, and galacto-oligosaccharides found in legumes
Low FODMAP Portions
Unlike other elimination diets, portion size matters when it comes to high and low FODMAP foods. Monash University is constantly testing different foods to find out whether they contain FODMAPs, which ones, and in what amounts. They use all this information to determine how much of a certain food someone with IBS or digestive health issues can tolerate without the food triggering symptoms.
If you are familiar with the Low FODMAP Diet App developed by Monash University (available for Android and iPhone), you may know the app works based on a traffic light system. Another helpful app to consider is the one by the FODMAP Certification Program. They test foods independently from Monash. Either one, or both, can be really helpful when following this diet and knowing what portion sizes are “safe” to eat.
Green light means good to go! These foods are low FODMAP and you don’t have to be particularly concerned with portion size. But, as any good dietitian would remind you, everything in moderation ;-). Just because bananas are a green light food, doesn’t mean you should go crazy! As with any food, low FODMAP or not, overdoing it may cause you symptoms of digestive distress.
Red light foods are high FODMAP and should be avoided completely during the elimination phase of the diet. Don’t worry, these foods aren’t off limits forever! It’s best to work with a Registered Dietitian who is an expert in digestive health and FODMAPs to help you work through the low FODMAP diet and reintroduce those red light foods once your symptoms have improved.
Yellow light foods are considered low FODMAP in smaller portion sizes, and high FODMAP in larger portion sizes. By clicking on yellow light foods in the app, you get a detailed breakdown of which portion sizes are safe, and how much you have to eat to overdo it and potentially experience unpleasant symptoms. For example, coconut is high FODMAP if you eat a cup or more (polyols are the trouble maker in this food), but low FODMAP if you only eat ½ cup or less. Although most legumes contain high levels of galacto-oligosaccharides, canned chickpeas are low FODMAP if you only consume ¼ cup or less at a time. Ricotta cheese contains lactose which typically triggers symptoms in IBS, but you can consume up to 2 tablespoons without suffering the consequences of digestive upset.
What small changes are you looking forward implementing in your daily life? You’ve got about 100 meals to eat throughout the month of March, give or take a few ;-). Look at each one as a chance to make a small change towards better health.
Wishing you good gut health & wellness,
Stephanie and The Team