Summer Portion Control: From Beach to Barbecue

Staying on track with your diabetes meal plan can be tricky during the summer months. Whether at the beach, a picnic, barbecue or bonfire, everyone looks forward to the food almost as much as the company. But when diabetes is part of our everyday lives, it’s best to be smart regarding both food choices and portions, to keep blood sugar levels in target range. Here are the top 10 tips for “right sizing” summer food portions.

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Tip #1: Shape your plate

Use the Diabetes Plate Method. Divide a 9-inch diameter plate into three sections. Fill one half of the plate with non-starchy cold and/or hot vegetables, one quarter of it with lean, grilled or baked meat or fish (protein), and one quarter of it with grains or starches such as rice, potatoes, pasta, baked beans, bread or corn on the cob. The sky is not the limit, meaning pile the food only to about a half inch high in each of the three sections. Add a serving of fresh fruit and 8 ounces of fat-free milk or low-fat yogurt.

Another plate system is Choose MyPlate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This plate is divided into four sections, of which 40% should be vegetables, 30% grains, 20% protein and 10% fruit, plus a dairy serving.

This tip provides a double benefit: It will balance the types of foods you eat — important for after-meal blood sugar control — and help you achieve excellent portion control. Also consider BYOP — Bring Your Own Plate. Bring some three-compartment disposable picnic plates with you to completely take the guesswork out of portioning healthy servings.

Tip #2: Estimate portion sizes

Many people find it easier to estimate healthy portion sizes using common household items. It’s fun and easy, and you don’t have to have the objects with you since their sizes are common knowledge. For example, a nine-volt battery equals one ounce of cheese, two CDs stacked equals two pancakes or one waffle, and a tennis ball equals one cup of non-starchy vegetables, pasta or rice.

The “hand jive” system also is used to size up diabetes-friendly portions of carbohydrate, protein, and fats. You use only your hands to estimate portions. This method is summarized in “Hand Jive to Measure and Count Carbs.”

Tip #3: Wait to take seconds

After eating your balanced plate of food, wait at least 20 minutes before going back for more. It takes at least this long for our brains to know whether we have eaten enough and feel full. This tip can help with both portion control and blood sugar management. Be patient and let your brain get the message. Then, after 20 minutes, if you still are physically hungry, take one more serving of one type of food, rather than filling your plate completely.

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