We all have heard that ‘Portion Control’ is the secret to staying fit and healthy. But what exactly does Portion Control entail? The biggest problem is that most people don’t know what the standard size of a serving should be! Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain your svelte figure, you cannot negate the importance of Portion Control….it really does matter!
A survey that was published in Journal of American Dietetic Association in the February of 2003 stated that portion sizes in most American restaurants have increased. In fact, some fast food joints and restaurants exceeded the USDA approved standard portion sizes by as much as 8 times! And the story is most restaurants across the globe is the same; portions so large that one person cannot possibly finish them alone!
You may argue by saying “What is wrong with more food? Restaurants are offering more value for money and that’s a good thing”. But think about it….it may be a good thing for your wallet, but what about that ever increasing waistline you cannot seem to control? Do you really want to take the risk for Heart attack, Diabetes type 2, Hypertension and other obesity related diseases, or do you want to have the smarts to ask for a doggy bag to take the excess food back home?
Portion control – Because Size Does Matter!
#1 Know your Quantities – How much meat is enough per person per meal? The answer is 3 ounces, or you can say roughly the size of your palm or a deck of cards. Anything extra is excessive. When eating gravies, a medium bowl is enough. That is about 250ml roughly. Same goes for yogurt or milk; a cup per person is adequate for a meal. When making vegetables, again a cup is enough per person. However, cooked veggies like carrots, peas or sweet corn should be measured at half cup per person. When making desserts, half a cup of chopped fruits makes for a single serving. You could serve it with a bowl of custard or a scoopful of ice cream. Same goes for any Indian dessert like Kheer or Halwas; a half cup or 125ml is enough.
#2 Eat by a Rule – Carbohydrates are the ones packing the serious calories. So make sure you understand that when it comes to bread, one thick slice is counted as one serving per person. When it comes to rice or other cereals, it is one-half a cup per person for a single serving. If you are eating homemade breads that are light, you can opt for 2 pieces. But for store bought breads that are usually oversized, a single piece is the recommended size.
#3 Shop Smart – Always read labels behind snacks and other packed items you might buy. While the pack might look like it will serve one, it is actually enough to serve two more often than not. How to decide that? Read the calories contained and portion size behind the bag. Can you afford to eat a 500 calorie pack of chips all alone for just a snack? If you find that market bought packs are too big for a single meal, re-pack them in to 2 bags and stash them away! This way, every time you reach for a frozen meal of a bag of crisps, you will not eat more than you should in one go!
Smart Tip: The best trick to practice portion control at home is to always use smaller plates. If your plate is always full till the top, you’ll think you ate enough! If you must supersize something, let it be the salad that accompanies your meal and not the meal itself.
Portion Control – Don’t Fumble When Eating Out
Now you might be managing portion control at home, but what about eating out? Most of us hate to be on guard when eating out; after all, you want to have fun. But while it is important to enjoy your meal at gourmet restaurants offering multi-cuisine delicacies, you also need to ensure that you still eat within a reasonable limit. Here are a few things you can do to practice portion control at restaurants and ensure you don’t eat bigger portions than recommended.
- Always ask the waiter for portion sizes. It may come across as rude to some people, but it will help if you ask him clearly how many pieces of meat a gravy dish will have or the size of their chapatti/bread so that you order only the amount of food you can finish comfortably. More often than not, the reason we overeat at restaurants is because we don’t anticipate the portion size of dishes and then stuff ourselves in order to finish the food.
- If the portions look too big, suggest sharing to your friend. This works especially well at places where the portions of meals are supersized. You can easily spilt an order of Fries or a large dessert between two people. You get to taste something yummy, without having to ingest all the calories by yourself. At least you won’t feel as guilty later about your indulgence!
- If the portions are too large and you have no one to share with, eat just half and request for a doggy bag to carry the extra food home.
- Skip second helpings. In most restaurants, the food is quite richly prepared with added creams and butters; which means that you might feel full with just a helping. So resist the urge to take another helping and munch on some salad instead.
In the end, the best way to practice portion control is to eat slowly. If you chew your food more thoroughly, there is a chance your brain will send signals to your stomach in time to let you know you are full. Those who eat fast, often overeat repeatedly. And while we don’t recommend you starve yourself, we definitely recommend that you practice portion control for a healthier, fitter you!