Portion Control

About 20 years ago the serving sizes and portions of our meals were much smaller than they are today. In the era of “super-size” in the 80’s the amount of food Americans consumed greatly increased, leading to the current obesity epidemic we are faced with today. Not only did fast food chains increase portion sizes, but restaurants and ultimately households as well since we have become more accustomed to eating these larger portions. For example, 20 years ago the serving size for spaghetti and meatballs was 1 cup of spaghetti with sauce and 3 small meatballs which totaled approximately 500 calories. That same meal today typically consists of 2 cups of pasta and 3 large meatballs which more than doubles the caloric intake. Even meals like a Chicken Cesar Salad have grown from 1½ cups yielding 390 calories to about 3½ cups and 790 calories. While in my opinion you can eat an unlimited amount of greens, the other items, such as the chicken, cheese, croutons, and dressing add up quickly.  Here are a few tips that I have put together to help you maintain your portion sizes and keep your waist from expanding.

Control Your Plate:

  • Divide your plate equally in half and fill the first side 100% with vegetables (or 75% vegetablesPortionControl 25% fruit) & fill the other half with 60% protein & 40% starch
  • Use smaller dishes at meals. On a standard 8- to 10-inch dinner plate, a portion of spaghetti looks like a meal. On a 12- to 14-inch dinner plate, it looks meager, so you’re likely to dish out a bigger portion to fill the plate
  • First start by eating your veggies and fill up on those before eating other food as this will make you less likely to over eat
  • Place the foods you want your family to eat more of, such as salads and vegetable sides, within easy reach on the dining table
  • Don’t keep platters of food on the table as this makes you more likely to “pick” at it or have a second serving without even realizing it

Plan your meals:

  • The more options you have, the more you want to try
  • If you’re starving, you’re more likely to eat an extra-large portion. Think before you eat and then eat slowly
  • The bigger the package, the more food you’ll pour out of it
  • Beware of “mini-snacks” such as tiny crackers, cookies, & pretzels as research shows that most people end up eating more than they realize and those calories add up
  • Choose foods packaged in individual serving sizes. Snacks should typically contain no more than 100-200 calories and 12-18 grams of carbohydrates and should have some protein in them
  • Write down what you eat. Not only does this  make you less likely to eat bad, but it makes you more conscious of your food choices and helps identify your weaknesses

Other Helpful Tips:

  • Don’t skip meals. If you allow yourself to get hungry, you are more likely to make a bad choice to satisfy your hunger and also more likely to consume more
  • Store leftovers in separate, portion-controlled amounts. Consider freezing the portions you likely won’t eat for a while
  • Never eat out of the bag or carton
  • Keep snacks out of sight so you are less likely to want them
  • Turn off the television. Studies show that since TV distracts you from how much you’re eating so the more you watch, the more you’re likely to eat
  • Pour any juice into a tall and thin glass as most people pour up to 20% more juice in short glass because the eye is a poor judge of volume in relation to height and width

Eating out:

  • Ask for half or smaller portions or have half of your meal wrapped up as most restaurant servings are big enough for two meals
  • Keep in mind that restaurants specialize in mega-portions and a 12 oz. steak contains 3-4 servings of meat
  • Ask that the server not place bread & butter on the table or take one serving if you must & have them remove the rest to avoid over indulging
  • If you have dessert, share it so you aren’t tempted to eat all of it

Know your “rules of thumb”

  • Serving sizes per container are listed on the nutrition facts label so be sure to measure and weigh your food
  • When you are unable to measure, use the following chart to help you with your portion sizes:


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