All you need to do is look at the evolution of the "value size" and "Super Size" in the Western Diet to see that portion sizes have gotten completely out of hand. With these sizes as large as they are, its difficult to know exactly how much you're eating since "one" of something doesn't necessarily mean that you are eating one portion. For example, one serving size of meat is 3 ounces but that ribeye steak that you're eyeing up is 16 ounces, which is just over 5 servings of meat and packs over 1,200 calories to go along with it--half or more of many people's recommended daily caloric intake. And that's just part of your dinner. When portions are put into perspective, it's so easy to see how many people have serious weight and health concerns. Add in the fact that most people are not moving nearly as much as they should, and for every 3,500 calories that you DON'T burn off, it gets stored in the body as 1 pound of body fat. To further my point, just 100 extra calories a day (which can be super easy to do) can increase your weight by just over 10 pounds in a year! (1)
For me personally, I don't dutifully track and tally calories. I believe that if you're eating the right things and keeping your portion sizes in check, calories don't have to be counted, tracked and documented. But I do believe, however, that it is good for everyone to know where they should be for their daily intake, (based on activity) as it helps set guidelines and goals. If counting calories is something that genuinely helps you, use a free app that helps you stay within your particular calorie needs, like My Fitness Pal or Fooducate.
So many people lose weight just by becoming mindful and diligent to their portion sizes and, if weight loss is a goal for you, you can do it too with the help of a few basic tricks:
1. Use a "hand-y" portion size guide. Not sure what a portion size even is? Your hands are the best tool for measuring portions and you take them with you everywhere!
Image via PopSugar
2. Understand the serving sizes on food labels. Be mindful of the number of servings contained in each package of food, especially if it is individually wrapped. For example: a small bag of potato chips might say the serving size is 1 ounce, or 8 chips, and the servings per package is 3. If you ate the entire bag of chips, you would have to triple the amount of calories, fat, sodium, etc. listed on the food label.
3. Share, Divide, and Save. Restaurants portion sizes are notoriously huge. As a server in the industry, I'm going to be the one to tell you that it's OK to get a take home box for your food. In fact, before your order comes up, or as it comes to the table, ask your server if he or she could get a to-go box for you. Divide half of your food into the take home box and save yourself from overeating. Plus, you'll have a meal for the next day, also saving you some money! Another way to control portions in a restaurant is to get an appetizer and share it with the table then split a main course with another person. If you MUST have dessert, get a few forks or spoons and share it with your table. You don't need a whole ice cream brownie volcano. Just a couple of bites is all your sweet tooth--and your waistline--"needs".
(Side Note: as a courtesy to the server, however, I would recommend not asking them to box it for you unless it is a standard restaurant procedure or do it for you without being asked)
4. Downgrade your plates. Did you know that in the 1940s, the dinner plate size used to be between 8 and 9 inches? Today's dinner plate is an average of 12 inches which leaves a lot more room to pile on the food. Hide the big plates and pull out the smaller ones. You know, the salad plates that came with the set that you never use. Yeah, those ones. Visually, the plate will look full, but you will be eating less.
5. Know your limits. Many years ago, Oprah Winfrey shared her secret to eating less and knowing her own limits: The heavy sigh. You do this without realizing it but now that I've mentioned it, hopefully you'll start to. When you're eating there is a moment where you stop and take a deep breath. My mom and I call this "The Oprah Sigh" and it is a signal from your body that it's done. Oftentimes, we are wolfing our food down at such a rate that our body doesn't realize this signal until its too late and you're too full. Slow down and enjoy your food while letting your body digest at a healthy rate. Find your "Oprah Sigh."
Your waistline--and your overall health!--will thank you for taking these steps to smaller portions!
1. The Dairy Council of California. "Correct Portion Sizes: How to Keep Portion Distortion In Check"