You can watch what you eat every day, but if you’re not careful about your portion sizes, then you most likely will have a difficult time getting the results you want.
Generally speaking, tracking your calorie intake isn’t necessarilythe best way to lose weight. Smart food swaps and portion control, on the other hand,can help you reach your weight loss goals.
How? Outside of controlled environments such as clinical studies, getting even reasonably accurate information about calorie intake is very challenging.
People underestimate how much their eating most of the time. Usually the result is a huge difference between the amountsthey’re actually eating versus how much they think they intake.This can mean weight troubles despite eating a healthy diet. Another phenomenon that occurs is when someone perceives the food they are eating to be “healthy”; they assume it’s okay for their portions to be unlimited or at least larger because the food is lower in calories.
Keeping an eye on serving sizes is a much smarter approach to weight control, but the trouble is that people’s perceptions of healthy portions are pretty distorted. Portions served at restaurants these days, or even the types that come in large packages, are out of control for the most part. We’ve become accustomed to expecting large portions and thinking that these are normal–when in fact the restaurants give us with way more than is needed.
There is such thing as too much of a good thing, so knowing the correct serving sizes can be the difference between weight gain, weight loss or maintenance. Here’s what you need to know about how to set up an ideal plate, plus some useful tips to eye-ball the correct serving sizes. You can use these principles below as your guidelines for how much you should aim to eat at one time:
1. When eating packaged foods, always look at the serving size
Most packages have more than one serving in them which can misleading. For example a typical bottled drink–even a healthy one like a green juice–has about 2.5 servings worth. A box of pasta has about 4 to 8 servings and one filet of salmon is usually enough for two people. Flip that package over when you can and take note of how many portions are in the container you’re holding so you have a good idea of how much you should be eating at once. Better yet? Eat less things that come in packages and use the principles below to judge portions…
2. Compare your portions to things you’re familiar to seeing
Dieticians have come up with some clever ways to eye-ball portions using everyday items you’re used to seeing.
• When portioning out protein, for example a piece of meat or fish, aim for an amount that looks equal to a deck of cards. You can also use roughly the size of the palm of your hand when you make a fist; obviously this portion will depend on the person’s size, but that’s actually useful considering men and bigger boned women need larger servings. You need about 1 to 3 servings of dense protein this size per day, in addition to all the other foods you eat.
• When having carbs, keep in mind the size of a tennis ball. This is about equal to 1 cup and a good rule of thumb for portioning veggies or fruit. If you eat certain whole grains (like quinoa) or potatoes, about half this amount at one time is smart. People vary in how many carb servings they need daily, but 4 to 6 servings of veggies, 1 to 3 of fruit and 2 to 3 of grains or potatoes is a good place to aim for.
• When having a source of fat such as nut butter, think about the size of your thumb and stick with that amount. That’s roughly 2 tablespoons. When it comes to oils, try for half the size of your thumb, or about 1 tablespoon. Daily servings of fats are another thing that vary from person to person, but most need about 2 to 3 thumbs worth a day.
• The thumb-rule also works for fat sources like nuts or hard cheeses, since your whole thumb is about the size of 1 oz. Another good rule for nuts or cheese is thinking about 2 dice worth.
3. Considermeasuring at first
As you begin to getting used to eating portion sizes that are more in line with what your body truly needs, rather just eating whatever amount is put in front of you, it helps to actually do some measuring. While it’s not necessary to measure your food forever, this can helpful at first to give you an idea.
You might think you know what a tablespoon serving of oil or butter looks like, but if you’ve never actually measured it out, how should you have an accurate example to follow? If you can, try using measuring spoons/cups and even a food scale at first to measure some of the foods you eat most. Get to know what a healthy serving looks like on your plate so you have a good idea of what to aim for regardless of where you’re eating.
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