Portion control is probably one of the easiest ways of modifying a poor diet. In America, anything bigger is better... except when it comes to our food. Most people don't know the size of a proper proportion. If we did, we wouldn't overeat so often. WebMD reports that Americans typically underestimate their daily calorie intake by at least twenty-five percent. Understanding the normal portion sizes to a meal can help you to continue to eat the foods you like without overdoing it on your calories. Most portions can be related to the size of parts of your hand. This makes it easy (and leaves you with no excuses) to know the proper amount of food you should be eating.
First let's look at fruits and vegetables. In general, the normal size of any serving of fruit or vegetable is about one cup or the size of your fist. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals and also contain fiber and other body friendly building blocks. We should be eating more of these than any other kind of food. In a typical meal you should be eating two servings of fruits and/or vegetables. That would be two cups or fists worth of food.
Next let's look at starches. These are the potatoes, pasta, beans, corn, rice, or bread. A normal portion of starch is roughly half a cup or what you could hold in your cupped palm. These foods are high in carbohydrates. The body breaks these carbohydrates down into tons of sugar. That's why they are a diabetics enemy. However, we should all be keeping a close eye on the amount of carbs that we consume because whatever isn't used as sugar is quickly turned into fat for energy storage in the body. Tip: A lot of restaurants offer starches as choices for vegetables. Remember, these are NOT vegetables. Make sure you only have one starch as part of your meal.
Now we are on to meat. A portion of meat for a meal should be about the size of your palm (not counting your fingers), like a small chicken breast or pork chop. Meats are where we gain most of our protein. Red meat, like beef, can contain a lot of fat and cholesterol and leaner meats such as chicken or fish are significantly healthier. Don't forget that frying your meat adds even more cholesterol where grilling or baking meat actually encourages fat to drip from the meat. The way you prepare your food can be just as important as what food you eat when trying to adjust to a healthier diet.
Lastly we come to the fats. Cheese, butter, salad dressing and other such goodies hide ridiculous amounts of calories in very small packages. Because of this, a normal serving size for such an item is about a tablespoon or the size of your whole thumb. One pat of butter or two cubes of cheese doesn't sound like much, but it's healthy for us. This is where a lot of dieters go wrong. They get a salad thinking they are being good, but then they douse it in calorie rich salad dressing. They end up with the same amount of calories they would have eaten in a burger and fries and then wonder why the scale isn't moving. Keep those fats to the size of your thumb and you will start seeing results.
Paying close attention to proper portion size can be all that some people need to start losing weight. If someone has been radically overeating, proper portions will make them feel like they are starving at first. This is because they have been overeating and stretching their stomachs. After about a week or two, the body will begin adapting to consuming the proper amount of food and that person will start to feel satisfied at the end of meals again.
Diet tip of the week
Use a smaller plate at meal time. It will trick your brain into thinking there's more food on the plate.
Jennifer Sellman, D.O., is the owner of Willow Family Medicine, LLC, located at 1061 Jones Street in Kennett.