Do you have portion distortion? It’s safe to say that most of us do. Studies show that Americans eat more calories today than they did 30 years ago. And just an extra 100-200 calories per day can add up to a 10-pound weight gain each year. If you’re used to overflowing plates of pasta and Flinstone-style steaks, you might need a refresher on what healthy portions actually look like. WHAT you eat is incredibly important, but HOW MUCH is also largely responsible for proper health. As Michael Pollan says about the three tenets of healthy eating: “Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Use our tips and tricks below to stop portion distortion and start eating the right amount of healthy food that leaves you feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
3 Steps To Fixing Portion Distortion
- Know the difference between a portion and a serving.
A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. A serving is a standard amount used by food companies to help provide a guideline about how much to eat and identify how many calories and nutrients are in a serving of a particular food. Do NOT always assume that a “serving size” is how much you should really be having!
- Determine how many portions are in a serving. Albeit simplified, the bottom line to consider for weight management is calories in vs. calories out. Exercise is definitely important, but ask anyone who has lost weight and successfully kept it off about their strategy, and they’re sure to mention portion control! The portions you serve to yourself can make or break your weight loss efforts. If a “serving” size of rice looks like it takes up half of your plate, cut it down to a fourth.
- Accurately size up your portions. Use this “handy” guide (yes, all puns intended) from Prevention to make controlling portion sizes super easy:
- Figure out how much you have been eating. Pour your cereal into a bowl as usual and then pour it into a measuring cup. How many cups of cereal are you eating daily? Use the guidelines above to make comparisons on the portions you normally eat and what would be healthier choices. (Psst:My favorite healthy cereal is Love Grown Foods Power O’s!)
- Buy an inexpensive food scale and measure out your food for a week. You may be surprised to find out what a healthy portion looks like. As you readjust your thinking about portions, you will be better able to identify a healthy portion.
- Forget about cleaning your plate! Many of us were raised to believe that we needed to be members of the “clean plate club” but that attitude can set us up to eat even when we’re full. Portion out less and stop eating when you begin to feel satiated. It takes your stomach some time to catch up to what you are eating, so eat slowly. Stop eating when you feel about 80% full.
- Trick yourself. Use a smaller plate so it looks like you have more food on it. One cup of food on a small plate is going to look like more food than it would on a bigger plate. Use small glasses too.
- If you find yourself hungry and want to increase your portions, do so with the good stuff like fruits and veggies. They’re low in calorie density, so you can eat fruits and veggies in bigger volumes and it may reduce overeating. Decrease your intake of high calorie and empty calorie foods. No one is going to tell you that you can’t have a big bowl of broccoli. Just don’t eat your broccoli loaded with butter or cheese.
Related: The 28-Day Veggie Challenge
- Don’t drink large caloric drinks. Liquid calories don’t trip our satiety mechanisms and often don’t register in our mind as part of our daily calories, so skip the huge “big gulp” soda at the gas station or the extra-large mocha with whipped topping for breakfast. If you’re not a plain water drinker, try fruit and herb infused water. Check out these delicious flavor combos below!
- Understand what triggers you to overeat. Try and catch yourself before it happens and make a different, healthier decision instead. Do a workout, take a walk, read a good book, or chat with a friend on the phone.
- Restaurants serve foods that are calorie-dense and in large portions. When you order your meal, ask for half of it in a to-go container to take home and make two meals out of it, or split your entree with one of your dining mates.
To find out more about what healthy portions look like, visit ChooseMyPlate for tips on how to eat less when you are eating out. Choosing smaller portions can be the decision that ultimately helps you manage your weight and stay healthy for years to come.