Nutrition habit #5 - Control your Portion Sizes
This is an important principle - you've got to pay attention to your portion sizes. We are victims of a society that is hooked on supersizing everything…supersize drinks, monster size cookies, muffins and bagels and astronomical sized restaurant entrees. For many of us, it may not be that our food choices are poor, we may just be eating too much of a good thing. Out of control portions will lead to weight gain and often cause people to feel lethargic.
Here is a very important message to remember. If at the end of the day, you have expended fewer calories than the number of calories you have consumed from any source, you will store these calories as fat. Here is how it works:
Let's say you consume an extra 1,000 carbohydrate calories in the form of plain pasta. It takes about 30 percent of the calories consumed to break down the dietary carbohydrate and store it as body fat. So out of the 1,000 extra carbohydrate calories, 700 will be stored as body fat. Now, let's say you consume an extra 1,000 fat calories in the form of creams. It takes about 3% of the calories consumed to break down this dietary fat and store it as body fat. So, out of the 1,000 extra fat calories, 970 will be stored as body fat.
It is obviously better to be consuming a diet rich in carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products because less of the excess will actually be stored as body fat. But you will still store excess carbohydrates as body fat and you will gain weight, whether your diet is low in fat or not. If your diet contains more calories than you expend in a day, you will gain weight regardless of the source of the calories.
When reducing food intake and portion sizes, the reduction should typically occur in the following order:
*Reduce fat intake
*Reduce alcohol intake
*Reduce sugar intake
*Reduce starches (pasta, breads, rice)
It is also wise to pay close attention to serving sizes listed on labels. Sometimes what is listed as one serving size is unrealistically small. So you may trick yourself into believing that you are consuming an item that is low in caloric and fat content, when in fact, what you are actually consuming is four times the listed serving size.
Here are some realistic portion sizes:
*A serving of meat, fish or poultry should be about the size of the palm of your hand
*Your fruit and vegetable servings should be about the size of a tennis ball
*A serving size of cottage cheese, rice, pasta, cereal or other starch is the size of a tennis ball
*A slice of bread, one small roll, or a half bagel or bun counts as one serving
*A serving of sandwich cheese is one slice
*A serving size of fats, oils, nuts, seed is about the size of your thumb
Techniques for Reducing Portion Sizes:
*Use a smaller plate. Instead of using a traditional dinner plate, use an appetizer/salad size plate instead. This will force you to start with fewer calories right away. We’ve been taught as kids to eat what’s on our plate. So a bigger plate automatically means more calories.
*Divide your plate into 4 parts. A quarter of the plate will be reserved for a starch (whole grain rice, pasta, bread/roll), a quarter of the plate will be reserved for protein and the last half of the plate should be reserved for fruits and/or vegetables.
*20 minutes before you eat your meal, have a cup of soup, a handful of walnuts, a small salad, a cup of juice or 8-16 ounces of water. This will help to suppress your appetite.
*To help control portions, keep a food log and submit it to a professional.
*To help avoid mindless, late-night eating, brush your teeth after dinner. Pop a breath mint or breath strip. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a bath.
*Buy single serving items or place snacks in small plastic baggies to help control portions.
*Avoid buying in bulk. Studies show that when people buy in bulk, they also eat in bulk. Remember – if it’s there, you’ll eat it!
*Eat slowly. The brain needs 20 minutes to receive the signal that you’re full.
* After food is placed in front of you, wait 5 minutes before you eat. Place small mouthfuls of food on fork/spoon. Completely swallow food before you add more food to fork/spoon. Put down utensils in between bites. Use smaller utensils. Consciously take time to taste, chew and savor food.
*Stretch out meals, making them last 30 minutes. Take a five minute break about 10 minutes into your meal
*Take sips of water or other non-caloric beverages between bites
*Introduce a one or two minute delay between courses
When eating out:
*Order one meal and ask for two plates so you can split the meal.
*Don’t order super-size meals; opt for regular or kiddie portions instead
*Order water immediately
*Order butter and salad dressing on the side
*Ask for your meat broiled and without any additional fat added
*Ask for your chicken to be prepared without the skin
*Order a salad instead of french fries
*Ask for skim milk
*Order a tomato instead of cream sauce for pasta dishes
*Order plain bread instead of garlic bread
*Take one piece of bread from the basket and then ask for the basket to be taken away. Or ask for a complimentary vegetable platter instead of bread basket.
*Order tomato and broth soups instead of cream-based soups
*Order fresh fruit desserts
*Hold the sauce on burgers and instead use ketchup, mustard, relish, tomato and lettuce
*Do not be afraid to ask for any type of substitution
Become aware of your impulses and urges:
What traps you into overeating? Is it a certain time of day? Is it the people you hang with? Is it paired with some type of activity? Do you get the urge to eat in certain places? Do you turn to food when you’re tired after work?
*Make a list of substitute activities. They must be activities that compete with the action of eating - ie. it’s difficult to eat while doing the activity. For example, a hobby, gardening, play a game with family/friends, learn a new sport, visit your neighbors/friends, write in a journal, give yourself a manicure, read a magazine/book, plan your next vacation, Relaxation/breathing exercises, walk/jog/swim/bike ride/go to gym/exercise video/dance to some upbeat music, shower, bath, get a massage, listen to music, prayer, meditation, housework, pay bills, balance your check book, complete a home improvement project, rearrange your furniture, wash your car, clean out closets/drawers, run errands, floss, take dog for a walk, video games
*Then when your impulse or urge surfaces, immediately start your substitute activity. The urge should pass.
If you recognize that you need to focus on controlling your portion sizes, you may initially feel a bit hungry for a few weeks. But that hunger-sensation won’t last long. Your stomach is capable of shrinking and will learn to be satisfied with the smaller meals. Plus when you’re eating the right type of foods, you’ll have more energy and your appetite will effectively suppressed making your plan much easier to adhere to.
Yours in health and fitness,