It’s no secret that portion sizes appear to be increasing. According to the National Heart and Blood Institute (NHLBI), restaurant portion sizes have more than doubled in the last two decades. Between triple-decker burgers, supersized fast food meals and jumbo sodas, it’s easy to see how American’s idea of portion size may have become distorted. It’s also no big surprise that eating larger portions often means gaining weight. Here are some simple tips on using portion control to help you lose weight.
1. Understand Serving Size
It is common to confuse serving size with portion size, but they are not the same thing.
Serving size is what experts recommend, and what is often on nutritional labeling. Portion size is the amount of food you eat. Many times, portion size and serving size don’t matchup. Learning what serving size is can prevent you from eating portions larger than recommended.
2. Know Your Recommended Daily Allowances
Understanding the recommended servings you should eat from each food group can help you choose the appropriate portion size. The nutritional requirements you need to maintain good health are known as the recommended daily allowances. The requirements are based on your gender and age. Specific recommendations are listed for servings of fruits, veggies, protein, fat and grains. For more information, see The New USDA Food Guide: The Health Plate.
3. Learn To Eyeball Servings
It’s not always convenient to measure portion size with a measuring cup or food scale. Learning to eyeball serving size is the next best thing. For example, a serving of meat should be 3 ounces, which is about the size of the palm of your hand. The recommended serving size of grains, such as rice or pasta, is about one cup, which is roughly the size of your fist.
4. Downsize Your Dishes
It may seem simple, but switching to smaller plates when you eat may be one way to eat less. Call it mind over matter, but research indicates it works. According to Rutgers University, the smaller the plate, the less food is consumed. Studies show you may be able to shave off more than 100 calories a meal by eating off a smaller plate.
5. Don’t Eat Out Of The Container, Box Or Bag
One of the worst things you can do if you are watching portion size is eat out of the container or bag. It’s easy to munch on snacks out of the bag and not realize how much you have eaten, especially if you are watching television. Instead of eating right from the bag, measure out a portion and put the bag away.
6. Avoid All-You-Can Eat Buffets
Buffets are not the best place to practice portion control. Unless you have a lot of discipline, you may want to avoid the all-you-can eat buffets if you are trying to lose weight. If you do go, load up on veggies, fruit and healthy salad ingredients. Also, add a little protein, such as grilled or baked fish to fill you up. Skip going for seconds, which may lead to selecting unhealthy choices.
7. Take Half Home
When you dine out, portions are often much larger than recommended serving sizes. One way to deal with restaurant servings is cut your meal in half before you even start eating. Taking half of your meal home to eat later will prevent you from eating too much. Another option is splitting a meal with your dining partner.
8. Divide Your Plate
According to the American Heart Association, before you eat, divide up your plate into the four food groups: half of the plate should include fruits and veggies, a fourth should be grains, and the rest of the plate can be for proteins. Dividing your plate into the recommended servings of the major food groups is an easy way to visualize appropriate portions.
9. Buy Single Serving Snacks
Single serving size packages are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are they convenient to throw in a lunch bag or take with you on the go, but portion size is already measured. Single serving sizes of crackers, nuts and pretzels are good choices if you are watching your weight.
10. Eat Slowly
It’s easy to get into the habit of rushing through meals, especially if you’re busy, but eating too fast can cause you to eat more. It takes your brain a certain amount of time to register you’re full. If you eat fast, you will likely consume more food before your brain sends the signal you are full. Eating slower also helps make digestion easier and may prevent heartburn and indigestion.
Portion control is not always easy, but is often the key to losing weight. Learning what size portions your body needs to function optimally is the first step. Portion control does not necessarily mean eliminating certain types of foods. Instead, it means learning to eat in moderation. As you learn what serving sizes should be and adjust to eating recommended portions, you may find you lose weight and feel healthier.