Taking the Mystery Out of Portion Control

by Adrienne Matt on February 15, 2011

in Vegetables

You may want to shed weight or simply watch what you eat. A part of learning healthier eating habits includes portion control. It might sound restrictive but once you learn the principles, it can be quite liberating.

Train your eyes
Ever heard the expression “my eyes were bigger than my stomach”? When you’re first learning portion control, it may seem hard to know how much is enough. But by learning to use your own body as a “measuring cup”, you can train your eyes to know what your body needs.

The human stomach is about 12 inches long by 6 inches at its widest point. It holds about 1 quart of food and liquid. The exact size is dependent on your body frame but now you can get an idea of your “container” for food.

Use your hand as a guide. You can eat a fist-full of vegetables, a fist-full of chicken, a fist-full of rice and a pinky’s worth of butter. You can eat a handful of carbohydrates and protein but only a finger-worth of fats at each meal.

What are your goals?
If you need to watch your cholesterol, first focus on fats. French fries, butter, cream, milk and eggs have obvious fats. But there are “hidden” fats in salad dressing, sandwich spreads (mayonnaise) and most packaged foods. Read the label for trans fats, partially hydrogenated fats, saturated fats and, of course, cholesterol.

If you want to reduce your weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you use moving around all day. Try to cut back on fats first because it takes 9 times the energy to burn fat than protein or carbs. Another enemy of extra weight is sugar. Sugar is often the hardest habit to kick. And sugar seems to be in everything-from fruit juices to ketchup. Use the pinkie rule with fat and sugar and it will be easier to see how much you’re eating.

What’s your activity level?
If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, then you need to consume more food than an office worker. If your daily activity level is low, reduce the daily amount of food you eat. Most of us sitting at a desk all day tend to “graze”, eating food throughout the day. So we’re consuming more food than our body can use in a day and it gets stored as fat (unused energy).

Consider increasing your activity level. Even 10 minutes a day can make a big difference in how you feel. Don’t be hard on yourself when you have a “bad” meal. Resolve to eat the right portion at your next meal. And remember to use your hand as a guide.

This is a learning process and it takes time. Adjusting to different portions may take a week or so to get used to-but your body will thank you.

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