Thursday, January 14, 2010

Portion Control

People are getting bigger. That's no secret. Here's something that's not as well-known: our food is getting bigger too. A LOT bigger.

From 1977 to 1997, hamburgers expanded by 23%; a plate of Mexican food got 27% bigger; soft drinks increased by 52%; snacks (potato chips, pretzels, crackers) grew 60%. We're now entering the second generation of overeaters who can't believe that a fast food soft drink used to come in 10 ounce cups. There's actually a frozen entrée that proudly sells itself as "1 Pound of Food," as if its total mass was a benefit.

Are they serious? This is getting ridiculous!

Well, no more... The first step to diet renewal is to regain some control over what goes on your plate. During your Fast Break, you started tracking food and calories to get a clear picture of what your current diet looks like. This week, you're going to focus on Food Portions. With careful measurement, you'll learn exactly how many servings you're eating, then reduce portions until they're more in line with recommended serving sizes.

This will be the habit that can cut the most calories the quickest. You could literally lose weight by doing nothing more than eating single servings of your favorite foods instead of the culinary pile of calories you're normally faced with.

Do you ever feel obligated to finish everything on your plate, even if you're not hungry? You're probably a member of the Clean Plate Club. Formed with good intentions, this concept can cause more harm than good in this time of absurd portions. The American Institute for Cancer Research found that 67% of Americans eat everything on their plates, regardless of size. Problem is, a typical dinner plate holds three serving of spaghetti, not just one. A better strategy is to find ways to put less on your plate to begin with.

Here are some other Portion Control tips:

Use smaller plates and bowls. There's a proven link between the perceived size of food and appetite.

Order an appetizer as an entree. Remember to stay away from fried foods though.

Order from the lunch menu at dinnertime.

Leftovers are okay. Ask the server to wrap up half your meal before bringing it out.

Order smaller sizes such as a half-order of pasta or a "petite" cut of meat. Even so, portions may still be hefty. It's not unusual for a "smaller" portion of meat to be an 8-ounce serving.

Pay attention to what you're eating. You'll eat more if you're mindlessly grazing or staring at the TV.

Learn to read food labels, but be careful. Serving sizes can be misleading (for example, a can of cola is technically two servings.)

A Quick Note:
As you cut down portions, you may feel a little hungry at first. To offset this temporary hunger without eating more:

Drink more water

Eat fiber-loaded foods

Eat low-calorie foods first

Eat slowly, put the fork down between bites


  1. Using smaller plates has really helped me. I know when that plate is empty, I'm done.

  2. For me it's all about portion control, which is critical to long term weight loss. You might take longer than a fad diet, but in the long run you will keep it off. You should try Flavor Magic. I think this product has just come out, since I can’t find it in stores. I ordered it online from since they offer free shipping. It’s definitely a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that product, and it really helps me with daily portion control, while making my cooking easier and tastier. I LOVE THEM. It’s really a nifty idea, and I recommend it if you like cooking at home but are struggling with eating right.

  3. Really great advice. Smaller portions on smaller plates( especially pretty ones), is what has helped me the most. Congrats on your loss.

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