Is there such a thing as portion paranoia? Is it necessary to find the meniscus on a glass of apple juice to make sure you’ve poured an exact amount? How should you cut a salmon filet for the perfectly portioned piece at dinner time? Everyone knows that it’s not just what we eat, but also how much we eat that helps us to maintain a healthy and balanced diet–as well as a healthy weight. Keeping track of amounts is important, but food portion control doesn’t have to look like a science project, with scales, specific measurements and disastrous results when ingredients aren’t measured to a T.
Policing your plate and portions can be counter-intuitive when thinking in terms of real-world application and creating a relaxed and balanced approach to healthy eating habits. Portion control doesn’t have to be rigid or difficult. Just keep the following techniques in mind for effective and easy food measuring.
Divide and Conquer
Prior to meal time, visualize a plate divided. Don’t worry, your foods won’t take it personally! Start by reserving one half of the plate for fruits and vegetables. For the remaining half of your plate, designate one quarter for lean protein and the remaining quarter for grains/starches. Apply this concept at every meal and voilà–your plate is portioned and complete, sans scale or measuring cup.
Skip the hanger, not meals
You skipped breakfast and by 10 a.m. you’re so starved, you’d eat just about anything. With that level of hungriness, all hopes and desires of a well-balanced meal and proper portion size go out the window. Your impulses take over and you are simply looking for anything to satisfy your body crying out for nourishment!
When we don’t eat regular meals, we are more likely to overeat when we finally do. But eating regular meals, every 3-5 hours, can aid with improving portion control and decrease your likelihood of impulsive choices at meal times.
Bigger isn’t always better
In one study on the impact of package size and food consumption, results showed that the greater the size of the packaging, the greater quantity of food you’re likely to eat (twice as much in fact!). So how do you resist the extra-large bag of potato-chips or package of girl-scout cookies lurking in your pantry? Pre-portion tempting treats or snacks into smaller, snack-sized bags before storing them. Also do this with healthy snack options, ahead of time, so that you have more options readily available and already portioned for you. You’re less likely to eat more than you wanted and will still be able to enjoy occasional treats in moderation.
It’s all in the presentation
Consider the size of your plates, bowls, cups and glasses. Fifty four percent of Americans “eat until their plates are clean,” regardless of the size of the plate. Studies have shown that time and time again, the larger the dish, the more we serve ourselves. In one study, researchers distributed either a 34-ounce or 17-ounce bowl and encouraged participants to help themselves to ice cream. Those with the larger bowls dished out 31 percent more ice cream than their counterparts with the smaller bowls. Why?
We perceive actual portion size of food to be smaller when the serving vessel is larger. A regular-sized plate (8-9”) appears “full” with your portioned spaghetti dinner on it. But upsize that dish to the typical 10-12” plate, and now our perfect portion looks a little puny. Downsize those dishes may actually help you keep to actual portions versus perceived portions.
This article was contributed by Molly Lysaght, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist with The Little Clinic (inside select Kroger locations). For more information about dietitian services, visit www.thelittleclinic.com/dietitians.