What can we do about large portions? The answer may seem obvious—eat less! But that’s easier said than done. If, as I discussed in my blog entry last week, food experts have a hard time keeping portion size down, what does that mean for the rest of us?
Fortunately, there are some tricks of the trade that can make things easier for you:
First, educate yourself about what and how much you’re eating now. This means keeping a food record for at least a few days. Why? You might not realize where the extra calories are sneaking in.
Dig out the measuring cups and spoons. Take the time to measure out your cereal or your pasta. You don’t need to do this forever, but being aware of what and how much you’re eating can help you pinpoint “problem areas.”
Picture your plate. Half your plate should be filled with nonstarchy vegetables, a quarter with a carbohydrate food, such as rice or pasta, and a quarter with lean protein. While you’re at it, use smaller plates when eating at home.
Give yourself a hand. Use your hand as a guide. A fist is about 1 cup; your palm is about 3 ounces of protein; two handfuls is about 1 ounce of popcorn or pretzels; your whole thumb is about 1 ounce of peanut butter; and the tip of your thumb is a teaspoon of oil, margarine, or mayonnaise. Of course, hand sizes vary, so if you have large hands, cut back a bit.
Try not to serve foods “family style” when eating at home. Bowls and platters of food left on the table are just calling out to you to have second (or third!) helpings.
When eating out, share an entrée with your dining companion.
Fill up on green salad, vegetables, or soup before eating your entrée.
Don’t go to a party or buffet hungry. Have a small snack before you go to take the edge off your appetite.
Resist the temptation to order the largest burger, fries, or soda just because it’s a better deal. It’s not a better deal if you end up gaining weight and running high blood glucose levels later on.
Resist eating from the box or bag. Portion out individual serving sizes of crackers, pretzels, or any kind of snack food into snack or sandwich baggies.
In case you’re wondering if all this effort really will pay off, the answer is yes. Research shows that people who spend time watching and controlling portions are more likely to lose weight than those who just focus on, say, eating less fat or doing more activity. Even if your goal is not to lose weight but to maintain your weight or control your diabetes, portion control is another tool to help you meet your goal.
Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin.
Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.
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