Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor Melanie Douglass has some ideas on how to reign in those super-sized portions.
In a world where we’ve been trained to view one portion as a 1,500-calorie platter of pasta, a 16-cup tub of popcorn, or a cinnamon roll equivalent to an entire loaf of bread (1,500 calories), watching portions is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve and protect your health.
Here are 7 tricks to help you master healthful portions:
1. Measure what “1 cup” looks like in/on your bowls, cups and plates. This can be a one-day experiment—one that you’ll never forget. You can hear that you should “eat one cup” a hundred times, but seeing it—just once—in your own dishes, will seal it in your mind forever. It’s also helpful to do this with 1 teaspoon (for butter, which is a thin spread over a slice of bread) and 1 tablespoon (for peanut butter, also a thin spread over a slice of bread).
2. Drink out of juice glasses. Just try this for a few meals or even a week or two. Let your eyes get used to what 8 ounces of fluid really looks like (a juice glass) and your mind and body feel what it’s like to only drink 8 ounces at a time. Most of us easily drink 2 – 3 cups in one sitting–and when you think you are drinking “one 100-calorie cup” 3 times per day, when you are really drinking 2 -3 cups, you wind up with 600 to 900 extra calories per day. So even though it will feel weird to pull the juice glasses out for dinner, it’ll be an object lesson that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
3. Serve with measuring cups. For example, if you are serving brown rice for dinner, use ½-cup measuring cup to scoop each portion. If you or your family are starving for more, you can always scoop a second serving—but at least you train your eyes and mind to what one serving looks like, and you give your brain a chance to tell you if you really need more before snarfing down 2 – 4 extra servings. You can also spend $5.00 to set yourself up with portion perfect tools, like:
• Snack baggies (not sandwich bags).
• 2.5-ounce condiment cups (.97 at Walmart for a set of 4) which should be filled half full for salad dressing or mayo.
• 8 oz. Glad Ware mini-round containers ($2.00 at Walmart) which hold perfect one-cup servings for most foods.
4. If it’s a snack food, it’s one handful. This rule applies to most snacks: candy, crackers, chips, and even baked goods. There are a couple clarifications though:
• a) visualize handfuls with all five fingers curled (like a claw) and not extended (like your ready for a high-five).
• b) small foods get small handfuls; like M&Ms, sweet candies, even nuts.
• c) big foods get big handfuls; like chips, crackers, and cookies or muffins (the proper portion of a muffin is usually just the bottom and not the billowy overflowing top… so that is the portion that fits perfectly in a clawed handful).
5. With meat, visualize a deck of cards. Proper portions of meat are in weight: 3 – 4 ounces at a time. But weight is hard to visualize, especially when meat varies so much in thickness, shape, and fat content. The rule of thumb here is that meat should be the approximate size and thickness of “a deck of cards”.
6. In a restaurant, eat half of what you are served. Dining out is a gray, gray area. Expensive, special-occasion restaurants often serve proper portions of very high-quality food. But mainstream restaurants and fast-food outlets are serving monstrous portions of food that do more harm than good. So be it Mexican, Italian, American, Chinese or whatever… eat half of what you are served. Make a goal to take half home (or split with a friend) and eat the rest another day.
7. If all else fails, read the label. There are certainly times when we eat straight out of a box or package, so don’t let yourself claim ignorance when eating a quadruple portion of something that had the portion size right on the label.