Obesity is increasing in the U.S. at an alarming rate. Those that struggle with their weight are often told to just eat less, but it’s really not that easy. According to Web MD, Americans often underestimate the number of calories they take in by as much as 25 percent. Large portions are the norm in the U.S. these days, but even healthful foods contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.
Reducing portion size typically leads to weight loss. Many people don’t know what a normal portion looks like, however, or how to reduce portion size in order to lose weight. When I finally decided to get serious about my weight a few years ago, I met with a registered dietician. She showed me plastic models of food in the appropriate portion sizes and I realized just how much I’d been overeating.
I now read labels before eating anything and I measure my food carefully at meals. Those things are part of an overall plan that allowed me to lose a significant amount of weight, and even more importantly, keep the weight off.
Pay Attention to Portion Size
People sometimes assume the amount of chips in a small bag or the amount of soda in a small bottle equal one serving, but often the product label indicates packages contain two or three servings. Reading labels is one way to ensure eating only one portion of food, but not all food comes in labeled packages.
Some people rely on visual aids to help them remember appropriate portion sizes. For instance, one serving of meat, typically three ounces, is about the size of a deck of playing cards. One serving of bagel is about the size of a hockey puck, while one serving of pancake is about as big around as a compact disc. One serving of cooked vegetables, one-half cup, is about the size of a baseball, while one serving of cooked pasta, one cup, is about the size of a tennis ball. One serving of peanut butter, two tablespoons, is about the size of a ping pong ball.
Think “Down Size” Instead of Super Size
Popular fast food restaurants often offer customers the opportunity to super size meals at just a slightly higher cost than a regular size meal. Resist the urge to save a little money on a monster size meal and think about how to down size the meal instead. Buy a single burger, a small French fries, and a small soft drink. Only go for the super size meal if you plan to split the meal with a friend.
Use Smaller Plates
Many sources, including Web MD, recommend using smaller plates to make it easier to reduce portions. Served on small plates, small portions look bigger, causing people to feel satisfied even when eating less than they normally eat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends removing temptation when possible. Don’t put serving platters on the dinner table; fill a small plate with the desired portion, then put leftovers out of sight. When dining in a restaurant, request a box at the beginning of the meal and box up excess food so only a small portion remains on the plate. Don’t snack on chips out of the bag or eat ice cream from the cartoon; measure out the appropriate portion in a dish and put the rest away.
This simple strategy has been immensely helpful for me. If the whole bag of chips is in front of me, it’s hard to resist the temptation to eat just one more, and then one more, and then one more. I usually won’t get up to get myself a second portion, though, if I’ve put the bag away.
Eating slowly allows people to eat smaller portions while still feeling satisfied and full, according to an article in the February 22, 2010 edition of the New York Times. Focus on the food, chew slowly, and pay attention to the flavors. Eating slowly helps me eat less, but I also enjoy my food more.
Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/diet/control-portion-size. Portion Control and Weight Loss.
American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/EatHealthyGetActive/TakeControlofYourWeight/controlling-portion-sizes. Controlling Portion Sizes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/portion_size.html. How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight.
The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23real.html. The Claim: To Cut Calories, Eat Slowly.
Food Network. http://www.foodnetwork.com/healthy-eating/10-ways-to-measure-perfect-portion-sizes/pictures/index.html. 10 Ways to Measure Perfect Portion Sizes.