Learning portion control is one the most effective ways to lose weight. But in the age of super-sized beverages and value meals, how do you stick to reasonable portion sizes? Here are six quick tips to help keep your portions in check as you launch into your new year’s resolution to eat healthier and smarter.
1) Go retro – use a 9 inch dinner plate.
Did you know the size of standard dinner plates has increased by at least 25% since the early 1900s? Compared to the 9 inch diameter dinner plate that was the norm in the 1960’s, today’s plates typically have a diameter of 11 or 12 inches. By instinct, we use our plate as a guide for food portions, and sensible servings are dwarfed on a 12 inch dinner plate. Get the upper hand on this psychological and spatial dilemma and go with a smaller dinner plate. It’s one of the easiest ways to prevent overeating.
2) Serve the vegetables first.
Keep your protein and starch servings in check by leaving just enough room on your plate for the appropriate portion size. At lunch and dinner, serve the vegetables first and fill at least one-half of your plate with leafy green goodness. Vegetables such as lightly dressed salads, stir-fry vegetables or sautéed spinach are high fiber, low calorie, nutrient-dense nutrition leaders. Lasagna or enchiladas on the menu? Keep your serving to ¼ or ⅓ of the plate by adding an extra scoop of vegetables to cover more of your plate.
3) Make some comparisons.
A three ounce portion of poultry or beef is about the size of a deck of playing cards. Don’t have a deck of cards handy? Compare your protein portion to the palm of your hand. If your chicken or steak is larger than your palm, cut it in half and make two meals of it. You’ll save money and your waistline. A one cup portion of starch, such as rice or beans, is about the size of a baseball. If the pasta on your plate gives a football a run for its money, split it in half and take the extra home for tomorrow’s lunch.
4) Buy pre-portioned foods.
Too busy or stressed out to monitor portion sizes all of the time? Portion control becomes easy when you buy pre-portioned foods. Most dairy foods are available in pre-portioned containers: one ounce cheese slices or sticks, 6-8 ounce yogurts, 8 ounce cottage cheese, and 8-16 ounce cartons of milk. Turkey or beef burgers can be purchased in 4 or 6 ounce patties. When buying deli meats, ask the server to wrap sliced meat in individual 3 or 4 ounce packets. Ask the butcher to select meat, poultry or fish that will yield 3 to 4 ounce individual servings. With starches, cook just enough for a meal and go for foods that are naturally portioned, such as yams, potatoes or corn.
5) Serve food in the kitchen, not at the table.
Our eyes influence our appetites–the more we see, the more we eat. Why set up a battle ground every evening by leaving serving platters on the dinner table? Adopt a weight loss mindset and remove the temptation for second helpings by serving the entrée, protein and starches in the kitchen. Once everyone is served, put the leftovers in the refrigerator before you sit down to a meal. If you feel uncomfortable with an empty table, bring the salad bowl, vegetable dishes and/or fruit bowl to the table, so second helpings are low calorie and nutrient dense.
6) Develop a routine to end the meal.
Create a ritual to bring closure to the meal. Signal you are done eating by placing your utensils across your plate and pushing your plate away from you. Better yet, clear your plate in the kitchen and grab a glass of water or tea if you plan to return to the dinner table. Consider having a MealEnder to mark the end of the meal and help you bridge the gap between physically filling up and feeling full. Place the MealEnder next to your plate at the beginning of the meal to remind you of your goal to change your eating habits. Mindfully enjoy the lozenge as it dissolves in your mouth so that you come to associate its signature taste with meal completion, strengthening that signal every time you use it to cap off a meal.
These are just a few tips to help you become accustomed to reduced portion sizes. Soon portion control will be habitual and you will instinctively know when to stop eating. With these new healthy habits, it will be easier to lose weight and to maintain your health once the weight is off.