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    Wednesday
    Nov112009

    Portion Control

    I remember the times my mom and dad would "go on a diet" to try and trim their bulging waistlines.  Every time they wanted to eat, they'd pull out the little food scale and precisely measure out 4oz of this or cut exactly 4oz of steak.  The tedium was obvious - trim a little more, add a little, take a little out, "is that supposed to be 4 ounces of steak and 6 ounces of rice, or vice-versa?" - it took 15 minutes just to get the amounts properly measured, and that was just for the two of them.  After all that, they still had to cook for us kids.  They never stuck with their "diet" for longer than a few weeks because it was just too involved.  We want simple, not complex.

    Nutrition isn't rocket science, nor does preparing a meal need to feel like you're conducting an experiment on nuclear fusion.  Let's simplify eating a bit, shall we?

    When it comes to portions of meats like chicken, steak, pork, or any other cut meat, it's much easier to use the palm of your hand as a measurement tool.  A portion of cut meat will be approximately the size of your palm (not including your fingers).  Thicknesses of meat vary, of course, so stick to a portion that's about 1/2 inch in thickness.  If your meat is cut thinner, then you can add a little to the palm-sized portion.

    Canned meats are easy as far as portion control is concerned - provided you buy single serving cans, that is.  If you prefer to buy in bulk, then you give up a bit of time by measuring out portions.  I personally buy my tuna and other canned meats in single-portion cans to make my life simple.  The few extra pennies I spend per pound is worth the time I save.

    Carbohydrate portions are equally easy.  A portion that is about the same size as your clenched fist is recommended.  Oranges, pears, peaches, most apples, and other small fruits are easy carbohydrate portions.  When it comes to dinner, a cup of cooked brown rice or fist-sized portion of a baked potato will work nicely.

    © Carioca - Wikimedia CommonsWhere most people tend to fall off the portion bandwagon is when it comes to snacking.  I can't tell you the number of times I've flopped down in front of the football game with a bag of chips only to have the whole bag polished off by halftime.  That's 1000 calories worth of mindless eating right there.

    The solution is simple - pre-measure a serving of whatever snack you're eating (chips, crackers, nuts, pretzels, whatever) into a bowl and put the rest of the container back in the cabinet.  Doing this one little trick can save you hundreds of calories each time.  Calories saved = pounds lost.

    I'm not advocating that we eat chips and pretzels as a normal part of our dietary intake, but there are going to be times when we feel like eating those "comfort foods" that make us feel all warm and fuzzy.  Better to eat such foods with control rather than just binging on a whole bag at once.

    Most people have a tendency to underestimate the number of calories they take in over the course of a day.  By using the palm-sized and fist-sized rules of measuring your portions, you'll find it much easier to control the number of calories you're eating by controlling the size of the portions you feed yourself.

    Be well!

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Good post and something I have found is that portion control is key - simply because it keeps my calories low. At the end of the day, the less calories you eat the more weight you can lose. The trick is finding the right balance for you.

    November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

    You're spot on, Jeremy! People have an incredible ability to underestimate the number of calories they take in while overestimating their activity levels. Fat loss and fitness are indeed a matter of calories in vs. calories out.

    November 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterKeith

    We just talked about portion control in Weight Watchers today. I should really get a food scale. It's tough to measure things out & I don't think I'm doing a good job of eyeballing it. I've figured out meat & veggies. But stuff like pretzels & popcorn - I just keep eating it til I'm full. oops. The weekends are tough for portion control. When I'm at work, I eat the right amounts - because other people are around me!

    November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

    Hi Amelia! I know about those weekend control problems - you're not alone there! Using a small bowl to pre-measure your pretzels or popcorn can be really helpful for controlling your portion sizes. Many are the times I've sat down with the new bag and gotten up with it empty. Yikes! Hang in there, though. The effort you put into figuring these things out is well worth it in the end. Be well!

    November 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterKeith

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