Portion Size: Test Your Portion Size IQ (cont.)

Getting Started: Portion Style

So how can you get your own portions under control? Young recommends evaluating your eating style to set yourself up for success.

For example, if you're a member of the clean plate club, keep the serving dishes off the table, use a luncheon-sized plate, and wrap up leftovers immediately to avoid temptation.

If restaurant meals are your downfall, order soup and salad instead of an entree, and don't forget to move the bread or tortilla chip basket out of reach. If you can resist the temptation to finish your meal, portion off a third to a half and bring it home to enjoy for lunch the next day.

And what if you're partial to buffets?

"Take a lap around the table first to check it out, and then fill up on healthy foods first such as salads, fruits and vegetables," Young advises.

Fill your second plate (not to overflowing) with small portions of the more nutritious foods available. Try not to go back and refill your plate after that. Instead, sit back, drink a glass of water, and assess your hunger.

Tips for Portion Prowess

Young offers her top 10 tips to help you get portions under control:

  1. Leave 1/3 to 1/2 of the portion you're served on your plate. Over time, this can make a huge difference
  2. Don't be fooled into thinking that if you skip the bread, you're free to have a larger portion of meat.
  3. Cut back wherever you can. Asking for salad dressing on the side, and using one fewer tablespoon of dressing whenever you have salad, can result in a weight loss of up to 10 pounds over a year
  4. Make gradual changes in your portions for lasting results. Radical changes don't work, especially with kids
  5. You want larger portions? Add more fruits, vegetables, and beans into your meals.
  6. A deck of cards is equal to 3 ounces of cooked meat, and a baseball is equal to about a cup. Keep these visual guides in mind to help keep portions reasonable.
  7. Don't let deprivation lead to a splurge. If you have a smaller entree portion, fill up the rest of your plate with vegetables and a green salad.
  8. You may be surprised how much cereal, pasta, or rice you are eating. On occasion, measure foods at home so you'll remember what a normal portion looks like.
  9. Food labels are educational. Use them to get familiar with the calories and nutrients you're getting with each serving.
  10. Don't be lured by value meals. They're good for your wallet, but not your waistline.

Published April 27, 2006


SOURCES: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006; 83:11-7. Obesity Research, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2004. Barbara Rolls, PhD, Guthrie Chair in nutrition, Pennsylvania State University; author, The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. Lisa Young, PhD, RD, faculty member, New York University; author, The Portion Teller.

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