Portion Control

Take a look at the picture to the left. Would you recognize the hamburger club sandwich with a large side of fries looks as multiple servings? "But it looks like an average meal!" Although it looks like only one meal there is enough ground beef to qualify as at least two servings, plus one serving of bacon. The lettuce and tomatoes are great, but the bread counts as three servings. One serving of potatoes should equal about one half a cup, so there are about four servings of a starchy vegetable there.

Most people don't realize the ever increasing size of their meal portions when they go out to eat. Over the last few years, Super, Mega, Biggie, and XL have shown up on products at your fast food restaurants as well as in your frozen food sections too. Even your microwave lunch or dinner is larger today than in previous years. We're slowly conditioning ourselves to get the most food for the lowest price, even when that food is not good for us. Here's a test: You're at an amusement park with $10 to eat between you and your friend. You're both getting hungrier as you walk around. What do you find yourself doing? Be honest.

  • Stopping at the first restaurant/booth and buying the first thing you see on the menu
  • Looking at a few booths to see what you can get for your money.
  • Figuring out whether or not you'll get more food for your money by eating two hot dogs at the All American stand versus a burrito at the Mexican one.
  • Forgoing a drink in lieu of the drinking fountain so that you can get chicken nuggets as a side.
If you are like most people, your answers lean more towards #3 and #4. It's not uncommon to do this in an environment like Disney or at a sporting event. But what about when you're driving to a destination and you get hungry? Then what? How do you keep portions under control when you go out to eat? A simple practice that I often try to use is to box half of my food before I take a bite. It's not as easy as it sounds and takes some getting used to. Literally, draw a line through your food with a knife. Cut your chicken in half, cheeseburger, whatever. The real trick is when there are appetizers like nachos that can often be replaced endlessly. Just being more cognizant of the amount of food you have eaten will often help curb your eating habits. Here's another tip: The next time you run through the drive-thru at McDonald's, grab a Happy Meal. You'll be surprisingly full after about a half hour. Sp what do you do when preparing your own food at home? Here's a few tips to keep your meal sizes down.

  • Make foods that keep you'll be able to keep in your freezer like casseroles, soups, and pasta sauces. Freezing them ahead of time and freeze in individual servings makes for easy preparation later and less chance of extra food sitting out on the stove begging to be eaten. Most foods like this will keep for several months.
  • Buy your fresh produce and fruit individually instead of by the bag. Cut what you want to eat ahead of time and put the rest back in the fridge.
  • When buying meat, ask your deli guy/butcher to cut it into meal size portions for you.
  • Use recipes that can easily be reduced by halves or quarters.
  • Look closer at the back of the box. A majority of your pastas and rices have instructions on making individuals servings.
  • Snoop around the deli area of your grocery store or supermarket. Lots of times, you'll come across small servings of veggies and fruit in pre-cut form. Add these as a side dish to your next meal. You'll probably find something new to try while there too.
  • Use a smaller plate. Mentally, you'll do a lot for yourself if you eat the whole plateful of food.
Until next time, eat slower and drink more water.

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