Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Robin Rudner, RD, LDN, weighs in on portion control.
With the holiday season in full swing, portion control is something that is often put to the side until after the new year. Remember that you can still enjoy your favorite holiday treats without adding inches to your waist line, both now and any time of the year. One of the biggest mistakes people make is labeling foods as good or bad. This creates the mindset that certain foods are always allowed, and other foods are never allowed, thus making people more likely to binge on those “forbidden” foods especially during the holiday season.
Here are some tips on what a portion size is and tools you can use to help you keep your portions in check, thus preventing you from setting a New Year’s resolution of dieting and losing weight, like you may have done in previous years.
Look at the nutrition label. The nutrition label is one of the most useful tools in helping you to determine the appropriate amount, so locate your measuring cups and spoons. Cereal, for example, can be an easy food to overeat because most people just pour it into a large bowl and sometimes go for seconds. A serving of cereal is usually around 3/4 to 1 cup. Many people are eating 2-3 times the recommended serving without even realizing it.
The new USDA food guide pyramid, now called “MyPlate,” is a great tool to help you see what a proper plate of food should resemble. It is divided into sections: protein, grain, fruit, vegetables, and side of dairy. Your goal is to fill half of your plate up with fruits and vegetables and the remaining one-half divided evenly between starch and protein. Your starch can be anything from a starchy vegetable like potatoes, corn, peas, beans or your grains like rice, pasta and bread. Your protein could be fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu or other lean source.
. A serving of protein is about 3 ounces, which is roughly equivalent to the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. One serving of a starch, like a potato, can be compared to the size of a computer mouse. In addition, a serving of starch is considered one slice of bread or about half cup of pasta or rice. A serving of fruit is considered about 80 calories which is the size of a small apple. Your fats like oils, nuts and peanut butter have a much smaller serving size. Nuts for example are about one-quarter cup, oils are about 1 teaspoon and a serving of peanut butter can be compared to the size of your thumb.
At parties, it is important to choose wisely. Try to focus on selecting foods that are special at that time of the year or event. If there are several choices, try to sample each one while savoring every bite and chewing slowly. There is much research to support that the first bite is always the best and the sensation gets less and less with each successive morsel.
Never eat directly out of a box, jar, or bowl. By doing so, you are unable to keep track of exactly how much you have consumed, making is much easier to not only eat mindlessly but overindulge. Whenever possible, measure out a particular serving and then put it on a plate so you can see exactly how much is in front of you. One trick is to use smaller plates and bowls. Try eating salad on a dinner plate and your entrée on a salad plate. This can help you remain mindful of what you are consuming while keeping portions in check.
Divert your attention to the people with whom you are conversing and not the food on the table. If you are too tempted to be near the food, try to relocate somewhere farther away.
Go to events with a plan. Visualize. The more you visualize exactly how you want the event to go, the more likely you are to succeed. Establish a non food-related reward for your mindful efforts in avoiding foods and portions that you may have overdone on previously occasions.
Try not to think about food as good or bad. It is important to eat foods that you enjoy, while maximizing nutrient-dense options. This means you would be able to eat larger portions of foods that will provide satiety with a higher amount of nutrients than less nutrient-rich foods.
Use a food journal or online fitness tool to help you track how much you are eating.
Limit how much you eat out at restaurants. The more you are able to prepare your food at home, the better. If you do find yourself eating out, try to eat slowly and leave some food on the plate. The portions at restaurants can be more than double or triple of an appropriate portion.
Keep in mind that not all foods are created equal. For example, there are different portion sizes of both less nutritious foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats and processed sugars as well as healthier nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables. Being aware of portion size is important in maintaining a healthy weight while meeting your energy requirements.