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March 25, 2013

Living Independently: Picking the Right Portion for Good Nutrition

Portion sizes have exploded at restaurants in America over the past few decades. What used to be a reasonably sized fast food hamburger is now a belly-buster with a bucket of fries. This gradual increase in how much we’'re being served has skewed our perspective on how much food is in a normal portion. Just like mom used to tell us to clear our plates, we have a tendency to eat what’'s in front of us.

Understanding this is the first step to controlling how much we eat at meal times. Even if you have a balanced plate with vegetables, protein, and whole grain carbohydrates, eating too much can still pack on unwanted pounds. 

Tips for Preparing Meals at Home

  • Measure: Use a measuring cup to see how much food your dishes hold. Try pouring a bowl of cereal, then pour the cereal into a measuring cup. Are you getting one serving or is it more? Use the measuring cup to see how much a half cup of vegetables looks like on your plate or what one cup of juice looks like in a glass. If your portions look small on your large dinnerware or in large glasses, try getting smaller dishes. This will trick your brain into thinking you’'re eating a full plate, making you feel more satisfied. 
  • Eat consciously: Before you grab a snack, ask yourself if you’'re really hungry. Or are you just thirsty or bored? Try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes. If you’'re still hungry get a healthy snack. When you’'re eating, go slow. When you feel satisfied, stop eating. Don’t feel you have to finish everything on your plate. 
  • Familiarize yourself with standard portion sizes: Three ounces of chicken or beef is about the size of deck of cards. Three ounces of fish is about the size of a checkbook. One serving of cheese looks like six dice. Once you know how big a portion should look, you’'ll be better able to detect when you’'re eating too much. 

Tips for Eating Out

  • Avoid all-you-can-eat: Unless it’s a salad bar (with a choice of low-fat dressing), all-you-can-eat buffets are a bad idea. It’s too easy to splurge on several plates of food, especially when you feel like you need to get your money’s worth. 
  • Ask for a box: Many restaurant dishes have enough food and calories for two meals. When your server brings your food, ask for a box and put half away before you start eating. That way you won’t be tempted to finish the whole meal in one sitting. 
  • Ask for the lunch portion: Some restaurants have small-portion options you can order at lunch or dinner. Ask for the smaller plate instead of the full dinner entree. You can also get one dinner and share with a friend, or order a salad and appetizer to share instead of a full dinner. 

Want to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition, check out our tips on the Kendal Northern Ohio Blog.

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