Control Your Portions, Control Your Size

In this super-sized world, is it any wonder we're not losing weight?

by Leah Call | Updated 09 Feb 2016 at 7:37 AM

Stuck on that weight loss goal for 2016? Let’s talk about the food you’re eating. For instance, that plate of spaghetti you had last night — did you think it was just one serving?

Chances are, it was closer to six servings.

“Portions are the number one reason many of us take in more calories than we realize,” said nutrition and fitness expert Erin Palinski, author of “2 Day Diabetes Diet” and “Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.”

Portion control, combined with exercise, should be part of your overall health plan — and it might just help you shed those extra pounds.

“Often we are filling large plates, and we are not really sure what the portions should be, so we are just piling it on,” Palinski told LifeZette.

The American view of healthy portions has gotten incredibly skewed. Food portions have doubled and in some cases tripled from the norm of 20 years ago and right along with it, so have our waistlines. The average hamburger or muffin in 1996 was nearly half the size and half the calories as it is today. And the additional activity needed to burn those extra calories, for most people, is not happening.

Serving Sizes that Surprise Us
One Serving =
1/2 cup rice or pasta
2 ounces cheese
3 ounces meat or fish
11 french fries
20 small pretzels
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cereal
1/4 cup almonds (about 23)
2 tablespoon of peanut butter
1/2 large banana or apple

"A half cup is a serving size, and that is pretty small," said Palinski. "So a pasta lover who is filling a large plate of pasta can easily be getting several servings. And it digests so quickly that we don’t really feel stuffed when we eat it, so people tend to over consume."

While extreme portion sizes are most evident when eating out, our penchant for mammoth portions often transfers to our plates at home.

"What is really the crux is setting up your home environment to be portion friendly, because our outside environment is NOT portion friendly. Restaurant portions are tremendous. In your house, you have control," said nutritionist and portion-control expert Lisa Young, author of "The Portion Teller Plan: The No Diet Reality Guide to Eating, Cheating, and Losing Weight Permanently."

Separating chips, nuts and other snacks into single servings, or purchasing pre-packaged single-serving foods, is an easy step we can all take, said Young. We need to beware in the grocery aisles, too, that packaging has also gotten larger.

Here are eight great tips for controlling portion sizes:

1: Measure it out. For family meals, measure out servings on individual plates.

2: Resist those second helpings. Hold to this absolutely. 

3: Cook with spices. Spices make for more enjoyable home meals, add minimal extra calories and offer an array of health benefits.

4: Read labels. Labels give serving size information. Since you won’t always have a measuring cup handy, use visual cues to remember appropriate portions or serving sizes, Young said.

5: Learn these common visual cues. A fist equals 1 cup. Palm of hand equals about half a cup. A golf ball is a 1/4 cup. A deck of cards is equivalent to a 3-ounce serving of fish, meat or poultry. "Maybe once a month, measure out your portions to re-familiarize yourself with what a portion really is," Palinski said. "That way you can eyeball it and be a little more accurate, versus just winging it."

6: Use smaller plates. Smaller plates mean smaller portions, yet our brain sees a full plate of food. Young suggests eating off grandma’s dishes from years ago, since plate sizes have also increased over the years.

7: Green it up. Fill half that small plate with leafy greens and colorful non-starchy veggies. "You really can’t overdo those because the calories are so minimal that even a large portion is going to be fine," Palinski told LifeZette.

8: Control dining out. Order a salad or healthy soup to start, share an entrée, and don’t feel the need to finish it. Ask for toppings on the side, avoid the bread basket, and enjoy only one form of starch — rice, potato or bread — not all three.

Whether you’re dining out or eating in, portion control and heeding serving sizes could have you bathing-suit ready by summer. That’s a surprise you’ll love.

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  2. 2 Day Diabetes Diet
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  4. Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.
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  6. Erin Palinski
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  8. Lisa Young
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  11. portion control
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  14. The Portion Teller Plan: The No Diet Reality Guide to Eating
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