American waistlines are growing as a result from inactivity and increased food consumption at home and at restaurants. Part of the problem is “portion control” — or lack of it, since most of us don’t understand what a standard serving size actually is supposed to be, so we overeat.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, portion sizes of many popular restaurant and packaged foods have grown substantially over the past 20 years. Some restaurant portions exceed standard USDA portion sizes by as much as eight times.
One of the key elements to losing weight and keeping it off is practicing and understanding portion control. You can eat the best food for your body, but if you are taking in too many calories daily, you will not be able to lose weight.
Here are some easy tips for keeping your portions in line to effectively lose weight.
Portion Control Tip #1: Split a Serving
When eating out, try splitting a meal with a friend or taking half of your meal home. Most restaurants provide more than one serving in a typical meal. By splitting it up, you can save money and save on the extra calories.
Portion Control Tip #2: Portion out Food Ahead of Time
When you are having a snack, be sure to divvy up your portions before you begin eating. It is quite difficult to eat just one portion of any snack food when eating straight out of the bag. By separating out one portion, it is much easier to stick to it, and not eat too much without even thinking about it.
Portion Control Tip #3: Read Labels Carefully
It is extremely important to read and understand the labels of the food you’re eating and clearly understand the serving size. Food companies will adjust the serving size downward to make the nutritional numbers look a little better. As anyone who’s recently spent a Saturday night alone with the TV can tell you, the estimate of four servings in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs is very optimistic. Whereas the label would indicate a 300-calorie serving, keep in mind that the entire container has 1,200 calories and what they consider to be 4 servings.
Portion Control Tip #4: Learn Serving Sizes
By learning to visually identify some simple serving sizes, you can better control your portions. When eating a typical serving size of meat, it should be about 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. A standard serving of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball or your fist. Here is a quick and easy trick to use as a guide to portion sizes:
Handy Portion-Control Guide
Palm = Proteins
Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in animal products, like fish, meats, and cottage cheese. Some veggie sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh, and wheat glutens.
Thumb = Fats
Fats are important but also very dense, so match portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc.
Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember that whole grains are always preferred.
Hand = Veggies
Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That is a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and contain very few calories.
By practicing these tips on a regular basis, you can help to regulate your portion control and maintain a healthy diet long term.
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