Healthy Eating Starts With Portion Control

Andy Hanacek
Executive Editor

I admit it. I’m impulsive.
I’m definitely an impulse shopper, and I’m finding out over the years that, apparently, my by-the-seat-of-my-pants attitude extends to the kitchen as well.
My wife and I recently bought a house — with an unbelievable kitchen that the previous owner had splurged on and installed. Apparently, they spared little expense in purchasing a top-of-the-line Viking Professional stove, among other things. This stove has all the bells and whistles. I like to cook and can be quite the mad scientist/innovator when attempting to follow recipes in the kitchen, so I was naturally very, very excited about this aspect of the home.
Yet, I’ve learned that I simply cannot follow the dinner lifestyle taught to me through the years. My mother, every week, would plan out dinners for the week. Breaded pork chops on Monday, baked chicken legs on Tuesday, Salisbury Steak on Wednesday, etc., etc.
It was a great system, but it has yet to catch in my household. I have yet to use our new, fancy oven more than three times in the three months that we’ve lived in the home. I come home after a hard day’s work at The National Provisioner, and all I want to do is get a frozen, breaded chicken patty, microwave it, slap it on a bun with some mayonnaise and sit down and relax.
Honestly, it depresses me that I’ve come to rely on the microwave — and it makes me feel as though I’m not eating as healthy as I should be eating. So, I got to thinking, “Why is that? What is it about heating something in the microwave that screams ‘unhealthy!’ to me, an average consumer?”
Personally, I don’t consider microwaved meals necessarily unhealthy when I sit down and actually think about it — it all depends on your angle. For some, breaded, fried foods are a no-no, for health reasons. For me, not so much. Although I do need to make some changes.
For example, isn’t it healthier to eat one fully cooked, microwaved chicken patty with some corn and milk to drink than to go to a local greasy-spoon restaurant and ingest a lot more calories (and, probably fat as well) than I’m going to burn up between 7 p.m. and breakfast the next morning? Sleep only does so much.
Truthfully, then, eating healthy comes back to what most informed, realistic health “experts” (rather than the fly-by-night infomercial “dietitians”) have always said: It’s more about the portions you eat rather than the nutrition label. Eating one microwaved chicken patty won’t hurt me, coupled with other healthy choices. Scarfing down four of them doused heavily in mayonnaise, however, is a different story.
The meat and poultry industry has done a fine job of grasping the portion-control issue by the horns and wrestling it into submission thus far, but there are still products that could be portioned better, particularly on the value-added meals side. I challenge innovators to find ways to either make microwave meals healthier all-around by working on portions first, rather than worrying about substituting out unwanted ingredients.
Everyone needs a little bit of fat in their diets, after all. So don’t take it out wholesale, just sell a better-portioned product.