It’s All About Portion Control

Many people simply overeat. The average amount of calories needed by an adult male is about 2,000 calories a day, but a great many eat twice that amount. Thus, the real key to keeping weight gain to a minimum, in addition to exercise, is simple portion control. Do you know how large a steak should be as an adequate portion size for an average size man or woman? It is about the size of a deck of playing cards. This means your steak should be four ounces, not 10, 12, or 16.

How do you control portion size, no matter where you are? Following are some tips.

Use smaller plates and glasses or fill them only half full.
An average glass is about 12-16 ounces (tumblers), while fruit glasses are about 5-7 ounces. A serving in a tumbler is generally eight ounces, while fruit juice servings are four ounces. As a friend of mine in Australia says, eat minimally, like you’re saving some up for later. When considering plates, dinner plates are about 10 inches in diameter, while salad plates are about 7.5 inches in diameter so, swap to salad plates to avoid putting on too much food. Get accustomed to smaller serving sizes and you’ll keep your weight more under control even when you eat all on your plate. And, this will allow room for healthy snacks and the occasional sweets you enjoy but dark chocolate rather than milk. You should also initially keep a record of what you eat – a food journal – so that you can keep a rough estimate of calories, foods you like and so on.

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Use plates and bowls for snacks, not boxes and bags!
When talking about portion control it is important to use it especially for snacks, which for a great many are potato chips and similar foods. These can really pack on the pounds. Thus, either use the one serving bags or, place one serving in a bowl/plate and put the bag/box away. Otherwise, like many, you’ll just keeps snacking and before you know it, you’ve eaten the entire full-sized bag of chips or close to it and if you do, you’ve eaten about 1,600 calories in one or two sittings. So, consume single servings, not multiple servings. Another way is to portion your food ahead of time by putting snacks and similar treats into small bags as single servings.

Eat at a table!
Family life has become more and more hectic, as has single life. So often we are on the run that while we eat, we often stand and multitask doing other things. When we do this, we’re not as aware of how much we’re eating. Also, we tend to eat much faster and eat more food. Because we’re eating much faster, signals from your stomach don’t filter through to the brain until after you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Eat slowly and at a table – stay away from watching TV, talking on the phone, reading, games, etc. This will allow you to enjoy your meal and for your stomach to signal your brain that you’ve eaten enough. Also, try not to eat when you’re bored or stressed. It’s almost a certainty you’ll be far over an allotted portion size.

Keep treats out of sight.
Keep treats out of sight and healthy food in sight. Favorite foods can become a bad habit, especially treats when left on the counter in bowls, etc. For example, a small bowl filled with chocolate. It becomes almost a habit to grab one every time you walk by. Let’s look at an example. If you consumed your daily number of calories only, and then ate 12-15 M&M’s as a snack before bed, that small amount every night would make you gain 10 pounds in one year. So you see, treats sitting around can put on the pounds. It’s one reason the holidays are so bad for us; there are literally treats everywhere, making you feel almost ashamed if you don’t eat at least a few. All kidding aside, keep treats and snacks out of site. When you do not see them, it’s almost as if you forget you have them, and you won’t eat them as frequently.

Stop eating second helpings.
We’ve all done it; someone makes a favorite food and we eat a plateful and just cannot stop the urge to get a second helping. That second helping is a problem for weight control. So, serve yourself and put any leftover food away before sitting down for dinner. This makes it inconvenient to go back for seconds.

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What’s your hunger scale? Use it.
Your body, if you eat slowly enough, will tell you when it has had enough to eat. Each person’s body gives clues about how hungry they are, but you need to pay attention to them. We’re not always at the same hunger level and, when you’re super hungry, be patient and eat slowly. So, listen to your body since if you eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel content (not stuffed), you will limit overeating and still enjoy your food.

Practice Meal Frequency – Don’t skip meals.
Think of your body like a car. When you go up a hill, the car needs more energy or gas. Likewise, when you work out, you need more calories than if you don’t, but you don’t need them all at once. As a car travels done the road at the same speed it keeps a constant flow of fuel going to the engine so that the energy supply is steady. Your body acts similarly. You don’t need all your food at once or in two meals. So, don’t skip any meal but instead, eat steadily throughout the day in six meals – breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, pre-bed snack. This will fuel your body as it needs it. After a workout, wait about 40 minutes and have a snack, protein drink, etc. because your body will crave the calories at that time. There are more scientific reasons, but we’ll skip that for now.

In addition to the above, learn all you can about nutrition and what calories are in various foods you eat, as well as the amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Additionally, quit justifying eating to excess. There are a lot of pitfalls out there and you need to educate yourself. For example, a food claims to be low in sugar, but is instead, high in fat and one low in fat is generally high in sugar. Eat healthy snacks and fiber-rich foods. A meal or snack high in fiber can help you stay full for a longer period compared to a meal low in fiber.

Fiber-rich foods.
These are commonly known but will be repeated here. Fiber-rich foods generally include:

• Beans
• Fruits
• Nuts and seeds
• Vegetables
• Whole grains

Finally, small portions or meal frequency as we in athletics have termed it for almost 30 years, will help keep you feeling satisfied and help you control weight gain. Eat high quality foods and preferably those you have prepared yourself. Learn what proper portion sizes are and change your eating habits to reflect their use.

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