Portion Control

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The quest to improve the American diet has a new icon. In June 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the MyPlate icon. MyPlate replaced the previous MyPyramid image as the tool to help Americans make healthier food choices. The goal is to get people to think about building a healthy plate at meal times.

Along with the types of food you digest, we believe that keeping an eye on how much you eat is important, as well. Portion control is as equally important, when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Weigh and Measure Your Food

Many people have trouble estimating portion sizes. Weighing and measuring food can help. 'Roc Angels can’t be healthy by eating everything put in front of them. Weighing and measuring meals teaches us appropriate portion sizes.

Use Visual Aids

How much is a portion, anyway? It's hard to tell in this era of super sized foods. Twenty years ago, the average blueberry muffin was 1.5 ounces and consisted of 210 calories. Today, most muffins are 5 ounces and 500 calories. A bagel used to be 3 inches and 140 calories. Today bagels are 6 inches and pack 350 calories or more.

Use a food scale wherever possible. When eating out, you can estimate serving sizes by comparing them to familiar objects. For example, one cup is about the size of a tennis ball, One serving of meat, which is about 3 ounces, should be the size of a deck of playing cards. A serving of cooked rice, pasta or cereal should equal the size of a small computer mouse.

Read Food Labels

It’s easy to grab a big bottle of juice and chug it down without first reading the nutrition label or thinking about the calorie intake. But, it’s important to read food labels carefully when monitoring portion sizes. Start by looking at the the calorie count but, don't stop there. Many food and beverage packages contain more than you may think. What seems to be a single serving on the shelf may actually be up to three servings. More importantly, if that package contains two servings, then the number of calories in the container must be doubled, as well. Food labels can also be useful pieces of information for sugar and carbohydrate counts, both of which are important to monitor for blood glucose and weight control.

Avoid All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

Common sense should tell you that all-you-can-eat buffets are a bad idea for everyone. With the combination of big plates and the ability to refill them, portion control becomes a losing battle. If confronted with this type of dining experience, vow to use only two plates. For better portion control, choose low-calorie, low-carb foods like shrimp and raw veggies for the first plate, then follow your usual meal plan for the second.

Use Smaller Plates

Buying smaller plates or using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate are good options because this is a tangible portion control method that’s hard to circumvent. Be sure to fill half your reduced-size plate with vegetables or salad, one-quarter with a starch food, then one-quarter with protein. This is a great way to monitor portion sizes and trick your eye into thinking you’re eating more because the plate will look fuller.

Get a Doggy Bag

Asking for a doggy bag when eating out is an easy way to practice portion control. With so many restaurants taking a bigger-is-better approach to portion sizes, you’re left to rely on nothing more than willpower for portion control. Taking leftovers home is a good idea but, don’t wait until the end of the meal. Ask your server to package half your entrée before it makes it to the table or cut it in half yourself before starting to eat, in order to remove temptation. Sharing a meal with a friend or ordering an appetizer instead of an entree are other alternatives to avoid overeating.

Write Down What You're Eating

Besides assisting with monitor portion control, keeping a food log is another benefit for someone looking to maintain weight control.

In a recent study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, participants who kept food journals lost almost double the weight of their non-journaling counterparts. Food diaries force an increased awareness of habits and eating patterns. The visual diary can highlight pitfalls that may have previously gone unnoticed by a dieter.

Stay Away From Super-Sizing

Super-sizing is a super-sized danger when it comes to portion control. Avoid it at all costs. The average soda today is 20 ounces and 250 calories. Compare that to 20 years ago when it was 6.5 ounces and 82 calories. Don’t get caught up with bigger portion sizes just because they seem to be a good deal for your wallet. Your overall health and waistline will pay for it in the end, no pun intended.

Watch the Beverages

Another reason to say no to sodas is their notable lack of nutrition. Many beverages tend to deliver empty calories, which is the enemy of weight control. Always regular sodas and fruit juices, as it’s better to eat your carbs than drink them. Beverages won’t satisfy your hunger and they tend to raise blood glucose very rapidly. Opt for water or diet beverages instead. If you occasionally indulge in a regular soda or juice, be sure to read the label for the portion size information and practice portion control.

Don't Be Afraid to Snack

Healthy snacking can be a critical part of any diet.  It can help control total calorie intake, control cravings and overeating. Select foods that satisfy your hunger, supply your body with energy and provide important nutrients. Opt for snacks of 100 calories or less to stay within your daily calorie goal. You can eat more of foods with low energy density, such as carrots, grapes and air-popped popcorn, for your 100 calories.

For other snack ideas and their calorie intake, check out this previous 'Roc Angels article: The Snack App.

Contributing Source: Everyday Health