5 Tips for Controlling Your Portions

5 Tips for Controlling Your Portions

We’re overeating. To the tune 500 calories per day. That’s how many more calories we routinely eat today versus 30 years ago. No wonder we’re gaining weight!

Where do the extra calories come from? Sweetened beverages and fast food are two oft-mentioned culprits, but I put my money on expanding portion sizes contributing to our expanding waistlines.

You’ve probably encountered one of the Frisbee-size cookies strategically placed next to the cash register at delis and quick stops. Did you know that those cookies are 700 times bigger than a standard cookie? Virtually every kind of food is now larger than it used to be: Muffins are 333 percent larger; pasta servings, 450 percent larger; and bagels, 200 percent bigger than they were 30 years ago.

Fight back with reasonably sized portions

Use these five commonsense tips to take back control of the amount of food you eat. By getting back to realistic portions, you can enjoy your favorite foods without guilt and maintain a healthy weight!

1. Measure!

If you want to know how much you’re eating, you simply have to break out the measuring cups and spoons. Pour a typical bowl of breakfast cereal, then measure the amount in your bowl. Compare that to the serving size listed on the label, and adjust the amount in your bowl accordingly. Do the same for everything you eat, and you’ll see exactly where you can make changes.

2. Take the quiz

Check out the portion quiz from the Department of Health and Human Services. You’ll find that 20 years ago a standard cup of coffee was eight ounces (quick — how many ounces does your coffee mug hold?) and had 45 calories from added milk and sugar. Today’s regular coffee is twice as big, at 16 ounces, and contains 350 calories from added milk and sugar. Makes you rethink that morning cup of joe, doesn’t it?

3. Purchase calorie-portioned foods

I love the new 100-calorie snacks, already portioned for us. No more guesswork or reading labels and then counting out the exact number of cookies or crackers in a serving. We can eat the whole bag and still feel proud of ourselves because it’s only one serving. You can accomplish the same thing if you prefer to purchase in bulk by simply pre-portioning your food into serving-size bags. It takes a bit more time, but it’s cheaper in the long run.

4. Use smaller plates and bowls

How big is your dinner plate? A standard dinner plate was 10 inches in diameter 30 years back, but many are now 12 inches — with 40 percent more room for food! While you’re measuring your food portions, measure your plates and dishes as well. If yours are too big, it’s time to purchase new, smaller dishes to help rein in expanding portions.

Our recommended sizes:

            10-inch dinner plate

            8-inch lunch plate

            5.5-ounce cereal or soup bowl

            6.5-ounce beverage glass

5. Use your hands

It’s not convenient to carry around measuring cups all the time, but your hands are always available! Use these comparisons to estimate portion sizes when you’re eating out or at a friend’s house:

  • A woman’s fist or a baseball — one cup serving of vegetables or fruit
  • A rounded handful — about one-half cup cooked or raw veggies or cut fruit, a piece of fruit, or one-half cup of cooked rice or pasta; also a good measure for a snack serving, such as chips or pretzels
  • A deck of cards or the palm of your hand (don’t count your fingers!) — a three-ounce serving of meat, fish or poultry
  • A golf ball or large egg — one-quarter cup of dried fruit or nuts
  • A tennis ball — about one cup of ice cream, potato, pasta or rice
  • A computer mouse — about the size of a small baked potato
  • A compact disc — about the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle
  • A thumb tip — about one teaspoon of peanut butter or margarine
  • A Ping-Pong ball — two tablespoons of peanut butter or salad dressing
  • Four dice — one ounce of cheese
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