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Meal Preparation

I cannot believe that a serving size of pasta is just ½ a cup?
How could this be true?

Serving Sizes

It is true that one serving size of pasta is just ½ cup of cooked pasta. However, according to the American Diabetes Association, the serving size of pasta for a diabetic is only 1/3 cup of pasta. Eating large portion sizes is one of the biggest problems leading to weight gain. The best way to look at your plate is to divide your plate into 4 parts. When eating a pasta dish, ¼ of the plate should be equal to your pasta portion. One fourth should equal your meat portion. And, the remaining 2 fourths or ½ of your plate should be filled with watery, non-starchy vegetables. This does not mean that you need to stick to one portion of pasta at a meal, but you should stick to the total recommended amounts in a day.

For an average 2000 calorie diet, the American Heart Association recommends:

  • Lean meat, skinless poultry and fish - no more than 6 oz. (cooked) per day; fatty fish eaten at least twice a week
  • Vegetables: 5 or more servings per day
  • Fruit: 3 servings per day
  • Fat-free milk and low-fat dairy products 2 – 3 servings per day
  • Breads, cereals, pasta and starchy vegetables 6 – 8 servings per day
  • Fats and oils 2 – 3 servings per day
  • Limit sweets and sugar intake

The American Heart Association also recommends reducing intake of refined grains, like white pasta noodles. Eating whole-grain pasta will incorporate more fiber and nutrients into your diet. They also have a tendency to make you feel fuller quicker, making ½ cup of pasta seem not quite so small.

In a portion-distorted world, here are some tips on how you can determine a proper serving size.

Most of us would like to think that we have a good handle on portion control. But in our country – where “super-size it” seems to be our cultural motto, obesity is running rampant, and diabetes rates continue to rise – most of us could stand to learn a few things about portion control.

While it may seem disheartening at first to learn that a serving of porterhouse steak isn’t 16 ounces, you’ll soon learn that in order to reap the nutritional and health benefits from a variety of foods you have to control your portions!

The following serving sizes are consistent with the serving size suggestions of the Food Guide Pyramid and Diabetes Exchange Lists for Meal Planning. For those with diabetes or who prefer to count fat or calorie grams (g), we’ve provided average total calories, grams of carbohydrate, protein and fat per serving for each food group.

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group (commonly called the Grains or Starch group)

Each serving contains approximately 80 calories, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 1-3 g fat

Breads:
  • 1 slice whole wheat, rye, white, pumpernickel bread
  • 2 slices reduced calorie bread
  • ½ hot dog or hamburger bun
  • ½ English muffin
  • ½ bagel (1 ounce)
  • 1 small roll (1 ounce)
  • ½ 6” diameter pita bread or lavash bread
  • 1 6” diameter corn or flour tortilla
Cereals and Grains:
  • 1 oz most cold cereals (1/4 – 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup puffed cereals (e.g. puffed rice)
  • ½ cup cooked cereal (e.g. oatmeal, oat bran, cream of wheat)
  • ½ cup cooked brown or white rice
  • ½ cup cooked enriched or whole-wheat pasta or Soba noodles
  • 3 Tbsp wheat germ
Snack Foods:
  • 8 animal crackers (unfrosted)
  • 2 graham crackers
  • ¾ matzoh cracker
  • 4 slices melba toast
  • 3 cups popped light popcorn
  • 2-6 baked whole-wheat crackers 6 saltine crackers
  • 2, 4” diameter rice or corn cakes
  • ¾ oz pretzels
Starchy Vegetables:
  • ½ cup cooked corn or 1 medium ear of corn
  • ½ cup cooked peas
  • ½ cup cooked mixed vegetables
  • 1 small, 3-oz baked potato
  • ½ cup cooked mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup winter, acorn or butternut squash
  • ½ cup yam or sweet potato
Beans, Lentils, Split Peas:

(add 4 grams of protein and 35 calories)

  • ½ cup cooked or canned beans such as lima, kidney, black, soya
  • ½ cup cooked split peas
  • ½ cup cooked lentils
Vegetable Group

Each serving contains approximately 25 calories, 5 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 0 g fat

  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables (e.g. kale, spinach, romaine, arugula, bibb lettuce, iceberg lettuce, watercress)
  • 1 cup raw vegetables (e.g. carrots, broccoli, asparagus, leeks, onions, beets, green beans, cauliflower, peppers, celery, cucumber, water chestnuts, zucchini)
  • ½ cup cooked vegetable (e.g. see above for raw)
  • 4 ounces most vegetable juices
Fruit Group

Each serving contains approximately 60 calories, 15 g carbohydrate, 0 g protein, 0 g fat

  • 1 small apple (4 oz)
  • ½ cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 1 medium (4”) banana
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • 1 ¼ cup whole strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries or boysenberries
  • 1 cup cubed canteloupe or honeydew
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • 1 medium peach
  • ½ medium grapefruit
  • 1 kiwifruit (3 ½ oz)
  • ½ cup fruit cocktail, extra light syrup or own juice
  • 12-15 grapes
  • 12 cherries
  • 2 small plums
  • 3 dried prunes (also called “dried plums”)
  • 2 Tbsp raisins or other dried fruit
  • 1 medium orange
  • 4 oz most 100% fruit juices
Dairy Group

Each serving contains approximately 80-110 calories, 12 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein, 0-3 g fat

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat or 1% milk, lowfat or 1% fat chocolate milk
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat or lowfat buttermilk
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) calcium-fortified light or reduced fat soymilk
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat or 1% plain or fruited yogurt made with sugar substitute
  • ½ cup nonfat frozen yogurt
Meat and Meat Substitutes Group

A serving size of meat is 3 ounces for the Food Guide Pyramid, one ounce denotes one serving for the Diabetes Exchange Lists

Very Lean Meats

A one-ounce serving provides approximately 35 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 0-1 g fat
Three ounces provide approximately 105 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 0-3 g fat

  • 1 oz white meat of skinless chicken, turkey or cornish hen
  • 1 oz flounder, cod, haddock, halibut, trout oz tuna canned in water
  • 1 oz most shellfish, including clams, crabs, lobster, scallops, shrimp, imitation crabmeat
  • 1 oz nonfat cheese
  • 1 oz nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1 oz of luncheon meats or other processed deli meats with 1 g or less fat per serving
  • 2 egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute
  • ¼ cup textured vegetable protein (meatless ground meat substitute)
  • 1 oz vegetable burger patty containing 1 gram or less fat per ounce – add 10-12 g carbohydrate and approximately 20 calories per ounce
Lean Meats

A one-ounce serving provides approximately 55 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 3 g fat
Three ounces provide approximately 165 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 9 g fat

  • 1 oz chicken or turkey with dark meat, no skin oz pork tenderloin, fresh ham, Canadian bacon
  • 1 oz lamb roast, chop or leg
  • 1 oz lean veal chop or roast oz USDA Select or Choice grades of lean beef, including round, sirloin, flank, tenderloin, ground round
  • 1 oz USDA Select or Choice grades of steak including porterhouse, cubed, T-bone
  • 1 oz herring, salmon, catfish, sardines
  • 1 oz canned tuna in oil
  • 1 oz rabbit
  • 1 oz 4.5% fat cottage cheese
  • 1 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 oz cheeses with 3 grams or less fat per ounce
  • 1 oz processed deli meats with 3 grams or less fat per ounce
  • 4 ounces or ¼ cup light tofu with 3 grams or less fat per ounce
Medium-Fat Meats

A one-ounce serving provides approximately 75 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 5 g fat
Three ounces provide approximately 225 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 15 g fat

  • 1 oz chicken (dark meat, with skin)
  • 1 oz ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 oz fried chicken
  • 1 oz veal cutlet
  • 1 oz ground lamb or lamb roast 1 oz pork top loin, chop, cutlet
  • 1 oz ground beef, meatloaf, short ribs, Prime rib, corned beef
  • 1 oz any fried fish
  • 1 oz cheese with 5 grams or less fat per ounce
  • 1 oz feta
  • 1 oz mozzarella
  • 1 oz ricotta oz or ¼ cup tofu
  • ¼ cup tempeh
  • 1 oz sausage with 5 grams or less fat per ounce
High Fat Meats

A one-ounce serving provides approximately 100 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 8 g fat
Three ounces provide approximately 300 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 24 g fat

  • 1 oz spareribs, ground pork, pork sausage
  • 1 oz most cheeses including cheddar, muenster, Monterey Jack, Swiss
  • 1 oz most processed sandwich meats like salami, bologna, pimento loaf, capicola
  • 1 oz most sausages including Bratwurst, Italian
  • 1 oz hot dog (pork, beef, turkey, chicken)
  • 3 slices bacon
Fats

Fats are broken into four categories, each playing a different role in your heart health. Keep saturated and trans fat lowest and focus on increasing mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Each serving contains approximately 45 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g protein, 5 g fat.

High Monounsaturated Fats (choose most often)
  • 1/8 avocado
  • 1 tsp olive, canola, peanut oils
  • 8 large black or green olives, stuffed
  • ½ oz most nuts
  • 2 tsp tahini paste
  • 4 pecan halves
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
High Polyunsaturated Fats (choose more often)
  • 1 tsp stick or tub margarine
  • 1 Tbsp reduced fat, light or nonfat margarine
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 4 English walnut halves
  • 1 tsp corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp salad dressing
  • 2 Tbsp reduced fat salad dressing
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds
High Saturated Fats (choose least often, if at all)
  • 1 tsp stick butter
  • 2 tsp whipped butter
  • 1 Tbsp reduced fat butter
  • 1 slice bacon
  • 1 tsp bacon grease
  • 2 Tbsp boiled chitterlings
  • 2 Tbsp coconut, sweetened or shredded
  • 2 Tbsp half and half
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • 1 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 tsp palm, palm kernel, coconut oils
High Trans Fats (choose rarely if ever)

No specific serving sizes provided – limit total quantity of the following foods:

  • Fried foods
  • Commercially baked goods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (e.g. shortening, partially hydrogenated soybean oil)
  • Any foods containing the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated

Quick and easy household measurements to use as portion control guides

  • 3 ounces of meat is about the size and thickness of a deck of playing cards.
  • A medium sized piece of fruit is the size of a tennis ball.
  • 1 ounce of cheese is about the size of four stacked dice. 4. ½ cup of ice cream is the size of a tennis ball.
  • 1 cup of mashed potatoes is the size of your fist (depending on your size; commonly the size of a female fist).
  • 1 ounce of nuts should fit into the small of your hand.
  • 1 teaspoon of margarine or butter is about the size of the tip of your thumb.

Like fats, not all oils are created equal. A single oil cannot be used for all of your cooking. Instead, a variety of oils should fill your pantry, each having a distinct place in the kitchen.

First, it’s best to understand the various types of fats, how they affect your heart-health, and what quantity of them you should consume on a regular basis.

Fats 101

The old mantra, “eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet,” to control heart disease is out of favor. Research has revealed that the total amount of fat you eat really isn’t linked to disease; it’s the type of fat you consume that has the greatest influence. Two unhealthy fats, saturated and trans, raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk for heart disease. Two very different types of fat – mono and polyunsaturated – do just the opposite.

The Unhealthy Fats

Saturated Fats

Most types of saturated fat raise LDL cholesterol and overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, some forms of saturated fat have a neutral effect on cholesterol. The saturated fat found in butter, whole milk, cheese, beef and palm or coconut oil are considered “bad fats” because they increase risk of cardiovascular disease; whereas stearic acid, the primary fat found in dark chocolate, is neutral.

Trans Fatty Acids (Trans Fats)

Trans fats pack a double whammy on your heart disease risk – raising the “bad” cholesterol LDL, and lowering the “good” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Trans fats occur naturally in some beef and dairy, but the main dietary source is packaged baked products like cookies, cakes, breads, crackers, as well as fast foods.

Trans fats were originally created to provide a cheap alternative to butter. Trans fats are formed when a liquid fat is converted to a solid one through a process called hydrogenation. As a result, the structure of the fat changes from a fairly healthy unsaturated fat to one similar to saturated fat. Many manufacturers use hydrogenated fats in their ingredients because it creates a product with an extended shelf life and improved consistency.

Healthy Fats

Unsaturated fats are considered the healthiest fats because they improve cholesterol, are associated with lower inflammation (a risk factor for heart disease), and are associated with overall lower risk of developing heart disease. Unsaturated fats are found primarily in plant-based foods; and are generally liquid at room temperature. There are two types of unsaturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated Fat

Considered one of the healthiest fat sources in the diet, monounsaturated fats should make up the bulk of your daily fat intake. It is best to consume monounsaturated fats as a replacement for foods high in saturated and trans fat; you will also benefit from replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with monounsaturated fats. Good sources are olive oil, canula oil, avocados, olives, most nuts (excluding walnuts) and nut butters.

Polyunsaturated Fat

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3 and Omega-6. Both must be obtained from dietary sources because the body cannot manufacture them on it’s own. Research has shown that Omega-3s help prevent and even treat heart disease and stroke. These benefits include lowering triglycerides, protecting against irregular heartbeats, decreasing risk of a heart attack, and lowering blood pressure. Good sources of Omega-3s come mainly from fish, but also from flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and unhydrogenated soybean oil. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines are especially good sources.

Omega-6 fatty acids also lower the risk for heart disease. Omega-6 can be found in vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, soybean, and corn oils. Although Omega-6 fats play an important role in health, research suggests we get too much Omega-6 at the expense of Omega-3, which can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation. It’s best to try and curb your intake of Omega-6 (one easy way is to cut back on processed foods containing the above oils); and increase your intake of Omega-3, such as consuming walnuts and flaxseed on a regular basis, and including at least two meals from fatty fish each week.

Putting it Together – Quick Tips

Focus your energy on the following strategies when it comes to fat:

  1. Saturated fats – the fewer the better. Less than 7 percent of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats. Eliminate whole and 2% dairy, and limit red meat and other animal protein at meals (reduced frequency, portion size, or both).
  2. Trans fats – no redeeming value whatsoever; eliminate from the diet by avoiding foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list. Shortening and stick margarine also contain trans fat.
  3. Monounsaturated fats – ramp up your intake of olives, avocados and nuts; and try and use olive oil and canola for most of your cooking and baking, respectively.
  4. Polyunsaturated fats – you’re likely already getting too much Omega-6, so focus on increasing your intake of Omega-3 food sources like salmon and walnuts.
Cooking with Oils – Suggested List

Since all heart-healthy fats are derived primarily from plant oils, the following cooking primer relates to oils only.

As stated previously, no single oil can be used for all cooking methods. The following table emphasizes those oils that can be used for your chosen cooking method. Due to their chemical makeup, some oils are better suited for lower heat cooking than others. This is important because heating oil above it’s smoke point – the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke – produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals (the stuff we’re trying to prevent in the first place). A good rule of thumb to follow: the more refined the oil, the higher it’s smoke point.

The table below outlines a number of common cooking oils. We’ve broken these fats into High, Medium-High, Medium or No Heat so you know which ones you can cook at what temperatures.

High Smoke Point

Best suited for searing, browning, deep-frying. Deep frying not a recommended practice where heart-health is concerned.

Cooking Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Almond 65 28 7
Avocado 65 18 17
Hazelnut 82 11 7
Palm 38 10 52 High in saturated fat (primarily from palmitic acid, which research indicates raises blood cholesterol). Not recommended.
Sunflower 79 7 14 Seek out high-oleic versions (which are higher in monounsaturated fat).
"Light" Olive/Refined Olive 79 8 14 The more refined the olive oil, the better the use for all-purpose cooking. “Light” olive oil only refers to it’s color, not fat or calorie composition.

Medium-High Smoke Point

Best suited for baking, oven cooking, or stir-frying.

Cooking Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Canola 62 31 7 Contains small levels of Omega-3
Grapeseed 17 73 10 High in Omega-6, choose sparingly
Macadamia Nut 84 3 13 Bold flavor
Extra Virgin Olive 78 8 14 Best pick oil!
Peanut 48 34 18 Great for stir-frying

Medium Smoke Point

Best suited for light sautéing, sauces, and low-heat baking.

Cooking Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Corn 25 62 13 High in omega-6. High-oleic (monounsaturated fat) versions coming soon.
Hemp 15 75 10 Good source of Omega-3. Keep refrigerated.
Pumpkinseed 32 53 15 Contains Omega-3.
Sesame 41 44 15 Rich, nutty flavor. Keep refrigerated.
Soybean 25 60 15 High in Omega-6.
Walnut 24 67 9 Good source of Omega-3.
Coconut 6 2 92 Contains high amount of saturated fat (primarily from lauric acid, which research indicates raises blood cholesterol). Not recommended.

No Heat Oils

Best used for dressings, dips or marinades.

Cooking Oil % Mono % Poly % Sat Nutrition Notes
Flaxseed 18 75 7 Excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3. Keep refrigerated; even when refrigerated, has a short shelf-life (up to 6 weeks)
Wheat Germ 22 61 17 Rich in omega-6. Keep refrigerated.

* toasted sesame, extra virgin olive, and walnut would also serve well here.


Although choosing the right fats and right cooking method for that fat is important, proper portion control must be considered. Too much of a “good thing” is no longer healthy, so always make sure you include healthy unsaturated fats as a part of a diet rich in plant foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains – and low in animal fats.

For more information on implementing a low cholesterol diet, contact:
Preven tive Cardiology
Phone: 216.444.9353
Toll-free 800.223.2273 ext. 49353

Reviewed: 06/14

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

Schedule an Appointment

Toll-free 800.659.7822

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2014 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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