Still in search of the best diet to help you lose weight or lower your blood sugars? Maybe Paleo? Maybe juicing? Or perhaps fasting is the way to go? Here’s a hint: Bypass the latest fad diets. Diets really only work if you stick with them, and most people can’t stay on any extreme eating plan for all that long. Instead, take a long, hard look at your own eating habits and figure out what might need changing. For many people who despair of ever dropping a few pounds or keeping their blood sugars in their target range, the culprit is the volume of food that they’re eating. Portions are out of whack, so to speak. The solution? Gain control of portions.
Tips for gaining control
It’s easy to overlook how much we eat. Part of this is due to simply not paying much attention. Maybe you’re a mindless eater — munching away while watching television, for example. Or maybe you eat to manage emotions — stress, boredom, nervousness, and excitement can all be eating triggers. A big part of how much we eat has to do with oversized portions and overly large dishes. Think about the super-sized meals and drinks that you get when you eat out. Take a look at the plates and bowls in a restaurant, or even in your own kitchen. It’s no wonder we eat close to 2,000 pounds of food each year according to the USDA — that’s almost a ton of food! Try these tips to help you tip the scale and improve your diabetes control:
Weigh and measure. No, it’s not a lot of fun, but weighing and measuring your foods is worth it. Grab your measuring cups and spoons, and buy yourself a food scale. Set a goal of measuring and weighing foods for a week or two or until you’ve trained your eye to gauge portions. Use measuring cups for foods such as cooked pasta, rice, and cereal. Measuring spoons are useful for smaller portions like oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and peanut butter. A scale comes in handy for weighing meat, poultry, bread, and fruit.
Hone your powers of estimation. You may not feel comfortable bringing your measuring tools to a restaurant or a friend’s house. But you can still rein those portions in by learning how to estimate. Compare portions to everyday items. For example:
A deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat
A tennis ball = 1 cup
Three dice = 1 1/2 ounces of cheese
A golf ball = 1/4 cup
Shrink your dinnerware. Did you know that most dinner plates these days have a diameter of between 11 and 12 inches? Restaurants plates are about 13 inches across. Compare that to plate sizes several decades ago: they measured 7 to 9 inches across. While you might think a few inches hardly matters, the reality is that the bigger the plate (or bowl or glass, for that matter), the more food you’ll pile on. So, dig out your grandmother’s dinner plates. Or, start eating meals off smaller plates, like salad or dessert plates. You’ll eat less, and chances are, you won’t even notice.
Portion out snack foods. How often do you grab that box of crackers or bag of chips and head for the couch? Scratch that habit. Instead, portion out single servings of crackers, pretzels, or nuts into snack-sized sandwich bags.
Be a food-label sleuth. Food labels (aka Nutrition Facts labels) can be a little tricky to decipher. The good news is that food labels will be changing for the better in the near future. Until then, though, get in the habit of always looking at the serving size on the label. Keep in mind that the serving size isn’t the same thing as portion size; for example, a serving on a box of cereal may be 3/4 of a cup. Your portion may be twice as much. And while it may be OK to eat more than the stated serving size, realize that your intake of calories, carb, fat, and sodium may be much more than you bargain for.
Easy on eating out. You don’t need to stop dining at your favorite restaurants. But if you haven’t noticed, portions can be unwieldy when you eat away from home. Have a strategy in place. For example, aim to eat half of your entrée and take the rest home. Share a meal with your spouse or friend. Order off the appetizer menu rather than the main course section. If your budget allows, choose a higher-end restaurant, where portions tend to be smaller.
Track it. Keeping a record of your food intake can seem like a thankless chore. However, you’d be surprised at the value of doing this. Studies show that folks who keep food records lose twice as much weight as people who don’t. And logging your food can help you better manage your blood sugar levels, too. There are different ways to track your food, ranging from old-fashioned pen and paper to creating a spreadsheet on your computer to using one of the many logging apps available for smartphones and tablets. Get in the habit of recording as you eat, rather than waiting until the end of the day.
Rate your hunger. Not paying attention to your body’s hunger cues is a surefire way to go overboard with eating. Listen to what your stomach and brain are telling you. If you’re feeling satisfied or full, stop eating. How? First, do nothing else while eating. Sit at the table and focus on your food, not your phone or tablet. And no eating over the sink! Second, slow down. Your brain will let you know when you’ve had enough, but it takes about 20 minutes.
Living with diabetes increases the risk of depression, but treatments are available. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in later today to learn how Amy Mercer regained her happiness.