Portion distortion is one of the prime causes of America’s obesity epidemic, yet most of us don’t realize that we overeat — or that when it comes to reining in calories, serving size is crucial. Here’s how you can downsize your portions and still feel satisfied.
1. Contemplating seconds? Wait 10 minutes. Your stomach needs about that long to signal the brain that it’s full, so stall before helping yourself to more mashed potatoes or lasagna. Keep the conversation going, tell a joke, or if you’re dining alone, read the newspaper or walk around the house. If you’re truly hungry after the delay, have seconds of the veggies or salad.
2. Quit the clean plate club. One in four Americans eat everything they’re served no matter how big the portions, surveys reveal. A better strategy: Eat a healthy portion, then stop. It’s better to waste a little food (and save it for tomorrow) than to overload your body.
3. Never eat directly out of the bag, box, or carton. Put the portion on the plate right away and put the package away, then sit down and enjoy.
4. Like big portions? Do this. Overload your plate with vegetables or salad with a smidgen of dressing or have a big, steaming bowl of broth-based soup. These water-rich, low-fat foods are so low in calories that a big portion isn’t a problem.
5. Use a salad plate as your dinner plate. Less real estate means automatic portion control.
6. Make “small” your default setting. When ordering food or drinks or buying packaged food at the store, automatically go for the smallest size of any high-calories items (The exceptions: Salads and veggies without added fat.) Get the small latte, the 6-inch sub instead of the 12-inch, the small cookie instead of the 4-inch chocolate chip behemoth. Calories haven’t bought can’t end up around your waist.
7. Go single-serve. Buy or make ice cream, sweets, or other high-cal foods, in individual serving sizes. Instead of a half-gallon of Rocky Road, buy ice cream sandwiches; make cupcakes instead of cake; and buy single-serving bags of chips.
8. But read the label first. Many packaged foods and drinks look as if they provide one serving are actually meant to serve two or more people. However, the calories and other nutrition info on the label are for just one serving, so read the number of servings per container first. Then be sure to eat or drink just one serving.
9. Pack your leftovers before eating. Sure, it’s easy to put a healthy plate of food in front of you. The trouble comes when the plate empties and you have more if each food sitting in front if you in alluring serving bowls. The answer: Package and store leftovers before you sit down to eat. That way, getting seconds becomes a whole lot harder and feels more inappropriate.
10. Round out the meal with raw produce. As you transition to more modest portion sizes, you may find yourself craving more food with your meal. The answer: a piece of fruit or a crunchy, large serving of celery, carrots, or peppers. There is no easier, healthier way to “beef up” a meal than with an apple, an orange, a big helping of watermelon or cantaloupe, or a sliced tomato.