Portion Control: Tricks of the Trade

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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.

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