For many of us, it’s not about what we eat; but rather, HOW MUCH we eat. How many times have you heard someone tell you that he/she eats healthy but can’t achieve the desired fat loss? The chances are this person is either not eating enough or eating too much, maybe even too much of a good thing.
Do you know how many grapes make a serving? Is that monstrous bagel or banana you bought 1 serving? There are various tips or tricks that can help you ‘eyeball’ appropriate serving sizes. Here is a guide to serving sizes.
Serving sizes are deceiving. When eating out in restaurants, it’s hard to miss that portion sizes have gotten larger. The trend has also spilled over into the grocery store and vending machines, where bagel sizes have doubled and an ‘individual’ bag of chips can easily feed more than one. Research reported that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). This can mean significant excess calorie intake, especially when eating high-calorie foods.
When eating out. Many restaurants serve more food than one person needs at one meal. Take control of the amount of food that ends up on your plate by splitting an entrée with a friend. Or, ask the wait person for a “to-go” box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.
When eating in. To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings when eating at home, serve the food on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. Keeping the excess food out of reach may discourage overeating. Using smaller plates and bowls will also decrease the likelihood of overeating (Brzycki, 2008).
When eating or snacking in front of the TV, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container instead of eating straight from the package. It’s easy to overeat when your attention is focused on something else.
It’s ok to snack. We learned as children not to snack before a meal for fear of spoiling our dinners. It’s time to forget that old rule. If you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a small piece of fruit or some nuts, to avoid overeating during your next meal.
Be aware of large packages. The larger the package, the more people consume from it without realizing it (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). To minimize this effect:
- Divide up the contents of one large package into several smaller containers.
- Don’t eat straight from the package. Instead, serve the food in a small bowl or container.
Out of sight, out of mind. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food. Make your home a “portion friendly zone.”
- Replace the candy dish/cookie jar with a fruit bowl.
- Store especially tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of immediate eyesight, like on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Move the healthier food to the front at eye level.
- When buying in bulk, store the excess in a place that’s not convenient to get to, such as a high cabinet or at the back of the pantry.
The emphasis is portion control and the philosophy that you can have everything in moderation. You will have cake at the birthday party and a glass of wine with dinner. You cannot live life on the countless diets out there. Forget restrictions that will diminish your results!
Not sure where to start? I can offer this basic knowledge and my own experiences, but that is limited. If you are committed and determined to changing your life, consult a registered dietitian – NOT a nutritionist or ‘nutrition consultant’. A balanced meal plan is sustainable and can become a lifestyle to take you long into the future. Forget the gimmicks and fad diets. Give yourself a plan that will help you lose the unwanted fat and keep that fat off.
Brzycki, M. (2008). Portion distribution: Size does matter!. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(7), 52-58.
Geier, A., Rozin, P., & Doros, G. (2006). Unit bias. Psychological Science, 17(6), 521-525.