5 Ways to Downsize Your Portions
Whether you overeat on healthy foods or overeat on junk food, by the time you feel full, you are probably stuffed. If you have problems with portions, you probably do not know when to say when. While growing up, you may have been raised to clean your plate or you may just be used to eating large amounts of food. One of the biggest hurdles is the extreme portion sizes at restaurants. The size of meals keeps getting bigger and bigger, and, in turn, so do people.
Here's how to take control.
1. Recognize Your Bad Habits
A good way to become aware of your hunger level and eating patterns is to start keeping a food journal or a nutrient-intake record. For each meal and snack, write down what time you eat and drink, what it is you are eating and drinking, how much you are eating and drinking, how hungry you are at the time of the meal and snack, and where you are eating your meal.
By doing this you will start to see patterns emerge. You'll start to identify times when you are more likely to have large portions and times when portion control is no problem. After identifying the situations where portion control is out of control, you can be aware and plan ahead to avoid excess consumption.
2. Slow Down
Eating slower at mealtime can help you eat less, since it takes your brain more time than your stomach to realize that you're no longer hungry. A few tips to help you do this:
- Avoid eating at your desk or in the car.
- Turn off the TV.
- Taste your food and enjoy it.
- Think about your portions, what you are eating, and why you are eating.
Before mealtime, take the time to prepare your meals or take the time to plan to go somewhere with healthy options. If you eat out, take the time to visually portion out how much of that meal you really need to eat.
3. Try Eating a Real Portion Size
Does anyone know what a portion size really is? A deck of cards is the size of one serving protein and a baseball is one serving of rice, pasta or cereal. You can also start to estimate serving sizes by using visual cues that correspond to the amounts below. Then, when you are keeping your food journal or nutrient intake, use the lists to compare and contrast your portion sizes to that of an actual portion size.
You will probably find that you are eating two or three times the servings you need if you are trying to lose weight. If you are trying to gain weight, you may find that you simply are not eating enough to get you to where you want to be.
One Serving of Bread, Rice, Cereal, or Pasta is:
- 1 slice bread
- 1/2 bagel
- 1/2 English muffin
- 1/2 c oatmeal
- 1 cup of flake cereal
- 1/4 c Grapenuts
- 1/4 to1/2 cup potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, beans
- 1 7-inch tortilla or 1 4-inch tortilla
- 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
- 1/2 cup cooked or raw veggies
- 1 cup raw leafy veggies
- 3/4 cup of veggie juice
- 1 tomato or five cherry or grape tomatoes
One Serving of Fruit is:
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- 3/4 cup fruit juice (100%)
- 1 melon wedge
- 1/2 cup berries
- 1/2 cup cooked, canned, or chopped fruit
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
One Serving of Dairy is:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup low-fat or non-fat yogurt
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese (low fat)
- 1 oz slice of cheese
- 1/2 cup low-fat ice-cream or frozen yogurt
- 3-4 oz of meat
- 2-3 thin slices of lunch meat
- 1/2 chicken breast
- 1 cup beans
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp canola, olive or corn oil
- 1 tbsp of salad dressing
- 2 tsp of peanut butter
- 1/8 avocado
- 5-10 olives
- 3 tsp nuts
4. Split Your Plate into Thirds
The nutrition recommendations from your meal plan will really help you to get an idea of how much food you should be eating, but starting to get a picture of what your plate should look like will be very helpful. Imagine your plate with three sections:
- Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables
- One quarter of your plate should be for protein
- One quarter of your plate for your whole grain carbohydrates (whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat couscous, whole-wheat bread, etc.)
Also, use a smaller plate or bowl. Less surface area to fill = less food to eat.
5. Avoid Portion-Size Landmines
- Restaurants—Most of the time, just cut your portion in half. Eat half and take the other home.
- Bread Baskets—Take one roll and send the rest back.
- Salad Dressing—Always ask for it on the side.
- Beverages—Go for calorie-free (water or diet).
- Dessert—Go for fruit or sorbet, share a dessert, or decline.
- Buffet—These are always tough. Moderation is key here, but still use the same plate principal. Load up on veggies, whole grains, and protein. Have little tastes of your favorite foods.
About The Author
Amanda Carlson-Phillips – Amanda Carlson-Phillips is the Vice President of Nutrition and Research of Athletes' Performance. As a registered dietitian, she has provided educational seminars and individual counseling to a variety of professional and elite sports organizations.