Does squeezing into your workout clothes feel like a workout in and of itself? Before give up all together or swear off eating everything but baby carrots, consider this: The culprit behind weight gain may not be what you’re eating, but how much. If, on a daily basis, you eat just 100 extra calories over what your body needs you would gain a pound in 35 days or ten pounds a year.
Over the last 30 years, Americans have added an estimated 570 calories a day to their diets! Many of these calories can be attributed directly to larger portions. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize that a portion (the amount your served) is not the same as a serving size (the amount you should be eating). For instance, a serving size for spaghetti noodles is ½ cup of cooked pasta – our favorite Italian spot most likely serves us 3 to 6 times this amount. We can’t just blame restaurants, let’s be honest, when was last time you actually measured how much you put on your plate. Have you stopped to consider that many of your meals may in fact be “BIGGIE sized?”
Using proper portion control is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, especially for people who don’t want to give up some of their favorite foods in order to lose weight. As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended that we make half our plate fruits and veggies (Although we most likely get plenty of fruits — so try to add those veggies!), one quarter protein and one quarter healthy grains. For protein, 3 ounces is the general serving size, think of this as a deck of cards. Grains are where we tend to go overboard. A serving of grains is one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of pasta, oatmeal, rice, etc, after it’s been cooked. Fruits are great, but many of us get more than enough .One serving of fruit is one medium fruit like an apple or 1/2 cup of chopped fruit. Although juices count as a fruit, note a serving is ½ cup of 100% fruit juice and eating the whole fruit is really the better option.
Ultimately, you are the one in charge of monitoring your portion sizes, so it’s important to know just what a serving size is. Using a visual aid can be helpful, but there are also other tips and tricks to help reduce portion sizes:
- Change the plate you eat off of. Studies have shown that simply eating off of smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions without feeling deprived, look for a 9-inch plate. Many companies now sell portion control plates (some are obvious, others are more decorative).
- Don’t eat directly out containers. Chips, ice cream and cookies are WAY too easy to over-eat – even for those with the best intentions. It’s smart to buy single-serving packages or save some money and portion serving sizes out into ziplock baggies in advance.
- At a restaurant, ask the waiter to box up half your entrée before they bring it to the table. Or split an entree with a friend! Sharing food when eating out is an easy way to watch your portion sizes.
- In general, order a small. If you can, order from the child’s menu or lunch menu, which are often smaller.
- Try not to drink your calories. They just won’t fill you up the way food will. If you must, order a small or look for ways to reduce the calories in your beverage. Consider ordering your favorite coffee with fat-free milk and no whipped cream.
- Try to avoid buffets. If you are at an event where you’re the one portioning out your food, remember to fill half your plate with veggies and maybe a serving of fruit. They will fill you up, but with fewer calories! Added bonus they take up space on your plate so you won’t put too much protein/grain/fat on your plate.
Once you know what right-size portions look like, selecting them will become second nature. Still looking for the silver lining? When you downsize your plate – you can downsize your weight — without giving up the foods you love. So instead of thinking good foods verse bad foods, try simply thinking about portion control.
Need more help with portion sizes and how much you should be eating? Get more information by signing-up for GIFT LESSONS and checking out Lesson 3 on Portion Control.
Do you have any other great tips for portion control? Please let us know!