Be aware of and choose proper portion sizes.

A healthy diet consists not only of what, but how much we eat. Some people struggle to maintain a healthy and stable weight because they are out of touch with what a reasonable portion size is. This is not surprising, considering that over the years, our portions have gotten bigger and bigger.

portion sizes

Here are some ways to control your portion sizes:

Eating the right portions helps our health, families and economy thrive.

  • Eat regular meals. When you let yourself get ravenous with hunger, it is easy to eat too much. Eating on a regular schedule will help prevent cravings for high calorie snacks or overeating at meal times due to hunger.
  • Don’t be tempted to upgrade or super size your order (this includes drinks). Just because something is a good price doesn’t mean it is good for your health.
  • Utilize the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging of most foods and measure them out before eating.
  • Liquids count. Many drinks contain a significant number of calories – from sodas to coffees to sports drinks. It can be very easy to sip down a few hundred calories without even thinking about it. Switch to low calorie or no calorie drinks (like water) or cut down on the amount of these high-calorie drinks.
  • When eating meals at home:
    • Place the food on your plate and leave the leftovers off the table. Out of sight out of mind.
    • If you usually eat all of the food on your plate, serve yourself smaller portions.
    • If you do go back for seconds, wait a few minutes to make sure you are really still hungry.
    • Fill half your plate with vegetables or salad first and then add the protein and starch (meats and breads, potatoes or rice).
    • Use smaller plates and bowls. Since the early 1990s, plate sizes have increased from 10 to 12 inches and bowl sizes have also gone up.
    • Measure out sauces, salad dressings and other high calorie condiments before using them instead of just pouring them over your food. Calories and fat can add up quickly with these types of foods.
    • Sit down at a table while you eat. Keep the TV and other distractions off and focus on enjoying your meal. You will be more likely to stop eating when you are starting to feel full instead of mindless eating until you are uncomfortable
    • If you are snacking while watching TV, put the snacks in to a small bowl and put the bag they came in away. This way you won’t mindlessly eat straight out of the bag until it is all gone.
    • Drink a large glass of water before meal time.
  • When eating meals out:
    • Order appetizers as entrees.
    • Split entrees with another person.
    • Ask for a to-go box with your meal so you can put half of it away to enjoy tomorrow.
    • Avoid buffet and family style restaurants.
    • Drink a large glass of water before the food comes.

Here are some examples of proper portion sizes:

(USDA) One serving equals:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • ½ cup of mashed potatoes
  • 3 to 4 small crackers
  • 1 small pancake or waffle
  • 2 medium-sized cookies
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup (4 leaves) lettuce
  • 1 small baked potato
  • ¾ cup vegetable juice
  • 1 medium apple
  • ½ grapefruit or mango
  • ½ cup berries
  • 1 cup yogurt or milk
  • 1 ½ ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 1 small chicken breast
  • 1 medium pork chop
  • ¼ pound hamburger patty

Know what portion sizes look like:

Another way to remember portion sizes is to utilize familiar sizes to correlate to certain food groups:

  • Vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist.
  • Pasta is about the size of one scoop of ice cream.
  • Meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm (minus the fingers).
  • Snacks such as pretzels and chips are about the size of a cupped handful.
  • Apple is the size of a baseball.
  • Potato is the size of a computer mouse.
  • Bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
  • Pancake is the size of a compact disc.
  • Steamed rice is the size of a cupcake wrapper.
  • Cheese is the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base).

First steps:

Leave a couple of bites behind each time you eat, even with snacks. Or, pause in the middle of a meal to see if you’re still hungry. It is amazing to see how much food we don’t need to eat and still be satisfied.

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