As portion sizes of foods have tripled or even quadrupled over the past two decades, so have our waistlines.

Twenty years ago, the average cheeseburger was 330 calories, compared to 590 calories today. Many “single-serve” beverage bottles and food packages are more than one serving size. Make a habit of reading the food label and looking at the serving size.

When faced with too much food, even some healthy options, it can be difficult to lose or maintain weight. The key, and often the challenge, is portion “control.” Exercise burns calories and can help ensure that our bodies are more “fuel-efficient” and heart healthy, but we have to eat less. Even a small portion reduction can yield positive results and help you in working towards a healthy body weight.

Check out these suggestions for managing food intake:

Portion Control

Incorporate small healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or a small salad in between meals to reduce your risk of overeating.

  1. Use visual cues. Visual cues can help you to determine a serving size of food. Some examples are:
    • Cereal = size of a fist
    • Cooked rice, pasta, or potato = 1/2 baseball
    • Peanut butter = a ping-pong ball
    • Fish = thickness & length of checkbook
    • Chicken, Beef, Pork or Turkey = deck of cards
    • Apples, oranges = tennis ball
  2. Write in a food diary. A food diary is a great way to keep track of portions and your food-mood. Record what you ate (include calories), when you ate, and why you ate. Enlist the support of a nutritionist to evaluate your record, or set up a weekly review with a friend to help keep each other accountable to your goals.
  3. Plan out your meals. Restaurants tend to give super-sized portions of food. Avoid over-eating by splitting half of your meal with a friend or putting half of the food in a take-out box at the start of the meal. At home, serve food on individual plates, instead of placing family-style bowls on the table.
  4. Avoid eating directly from a package. Measure out the portion that you want to eat and put the rest away. When we are distracted, it’s easy to overeat. If you plan to watch basketball games this March, don’t give the chip bag a spot next to you on the couch.
  5. Eat a healthy snack between meals. If you tend to feel overly hungry when you sit down for lunch or dinner, incorporate small healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts or a small salad in between meals to reduce your risk of overeating.
  6. Make your own properly portioned packages. If buying in family-sized quantities, divide larger packages of food into individual portions in packages or containers as soon as you get home from the store. This will make accessing the right amount of food effortless.
  7. Eat slowly and converse. Share meals with others; conversation and laughter are worth savoring! Focus on the company and eat slowly to allow your brain time to process that your stomach is full. Aim for 80% full after each meal, not 110%.

Quantity of food is important, but don’t neglect quality. Aim to cover half of your plate with fruits and vegetables: choose red, orange, and dark green varieties. Substitute whole wheat for refined products.

If you are having difficulty with portion control, talk with a professional. We often overeat because of stress or emotional reasons and it’s important for you to be aware of over-eating triggers and learn coping strategies that will work for you in the longer-term.

More info about healthy eating in the video below:

Sources: United States Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LifeWork Strategies EAP and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.