The word “supersize” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a verb meaning, “To greatly increase the size of.” Unfortunately, that includes our waistlines. No, it is not your imagination. Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years. From double and triple cheeseburgers at fast-food restaurants to “all-you-can-eat” buffets and “bottomless refills” of sugary beverages and alcoholic drinks, we are led to believe that more is better. The truth is, when it comes to food, more is usually just that—MORE. The problem is that we have become so accustomed to these larger portions that we aren’t sure when enough is enough, even in our own homes. We sit in front of our televisions or computer screens, mindlessly eating entire bags of chips or drinking multiple sugary coffee drinks without even realizing it. This could explain why, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 72% of American adults ages 20+ are overweight.
In a recent CNN article, registered dietician and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University Lisa Young, says, “It’s no surprise so many of us are overweight because it is so easy to be that way. It is hard to stick to normal portions when you are bombarded with these ridiculous sizes.”
We live in a “more, more, more” society, but the truth is that moderation is key. Even those “good for you,’ habits can go south quickly when you overindulge. Think about the sun. While it provides you with a healthy dose of vitamin D in small doses, if you stay in it too long, you could wind up with a nasty burn, wrinkled skin, or even cancer. The same is true of your foods. Yes, a salad is good for you, but that trending “big ass salad,” (BAS) covered in a creamy dressing, topped with cheese, croutons, etc., may be packing more calories than you realize. So how do you know when enough is enough? Here’s a helping hand, literally:
High protein foods: One serving of this group that includes poultry, meat, and fish should fit into the palm of your hand.
Veggies: This includes that BAS. One serving should be no larger than the size of your fist.
High carbohydrate foods: This group includes whole grains like quinoa, starchy veggies like potatoes, and fruits. One serving size will equate to your cupped hand.
High-fat foods: Butter, nut butter, and olive oil are examples of this category. A single serving is equivalent to the size of your thumb.
While not an exact measurement, using the above “handy” guide is free, relatively accurate since your hands are in proportion to your body, and doesn’t require a food scale or other special kitchen gadgets.
If you want something more precise, there are plenty of portion control containers on the market that eliminate all the guesswork. We like this 28-piece kit from Efficient Nutrition for its multicolored, premeasured, labeled containers and inexpensive price point. Simply fill ’em up and get on with your day. No weighing, measuring, or calorie counting is required. If you want to take up less cabinet space, try this portion control plate found on Amazon. Divided into three sections, you simply fill the large section with veggies and the two smaller sections with your protein and carbs. Voila! Dinner is served.
Portion control containers make it much easier to be aware of the amount of food you are consuming, allowing you to be more mindful with your meals. The one drawback is that they cannot address your specific needs, activity level, age, lifestyle, etc. That’s where a personalized portion control program like our PLATE system can help by giving you a customized plan for maximum results.
PLATE, which stands for Portions, Lifestyle, Accountability, Timing, and Exercise, was designed exclusively for women over 50 in collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Waldrep, practicing OB-Gyn. It takes into account the havoc that hormonal changes coupled with a lower metabolism have on the aging female body. This program gives you a meal plan with specific portion requirements, along with recipes to keep your meals colorful and flavorful. It offers coaching and connects you with a private forum group for chats and support.
One of the biggest differences in PLATE is that it doesn’t just tell you WHAT to eat; it tells you WHEN to eat for optimal results and encourages daily movement. By addressing the unique and specific needs of women over 50, this plan not only explains and educates, but it also works!
Understanding portions and how much your body REALLY needs to nourish itself is the key to weight loss and management. And while all of these methods are helpful, there are a few other hacks you can incorporate to improve your chances for success:
Make your meal intentional: Plate your food and sit down at the table to eat, even if you are dining alone.
Don’t eat from the container: If you really want those chips or other snacks, pour a serving into a bowl, and when it’s empty, you’re done.
Drink water: Hunger is sometimes just thirsting in disguise. Make sure you are staying hydrated all day, every day. Not just at meal time or while exercising.
Get the doggy bag: Eating out may be the biggest challenge when it comes to portion control. When you order, consider asking the waiter to bring you half of your meal in a to-go box. You’ll get to enjoy it longer. Or split an entrée with your dinner companion.
Awareness is more than half of the battle, and once you get the hang of portion control, it becomes less challenging. Like anything, practice makes perfect, and any of these tools and tips can help you set yourself up for success.