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Unhealthy Helpings: Are Your Portions Out of Control?

Once you’ve reached your weight loss goals, you’ll want to be vigilant to make sure you don’t regain the weight you’ve lost. If you do find the number on the scale creeping up, it might be time to check on your portion control. Even if you’re eating a healthful diet, your portions may still be too big, resulting in weight gain.


Portion control can be a real challenge. Portions have gotten larger at restaurants, food packages keep expanding, and “supersizing” is everywhere. This is bad news because studies show that people eat more when they’re given larger portions, often at least 30 percent more! We also become used to seeing these larger amounts of food and start to believe that is the appropriate serving to eat at one time—to our detriment when we try to button our pants.

Here are a few ways to keep your portions in check if you’re concerned about weight regain:

Review what constitutes a serving. If you’re trying to stay within a certain amount of calories or macronutrients, being aware of what you’re actually eating is essential. For example, if you’re calculating nutrition information for a serving of chicken breast (three ounces), be aware that eating “one chicken breast” may give you two or three servings, since many chicken breasts weigh six to eight ounces. Retrain your serving size “eye” by temporarily returning to using measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a kitchen scale when portioning out meals and snacks. Use smaller plates, cups, and glasses. Measure them to see how much they hold. We tend to “clean our plates,” so make sure you’re not loading on more than is appropriate to maintain your weight. Don’t eat directly from the bag, box, or carton unless it’s a single-serving package. Pour a serving into a bowl or other container, or divide a larger package into single servings. At restaurants, consider sharing an entrée or immediately placing part of it into a carryout container. Or order an appetizer and side salad instead of an entrée. Use your plate as a guide. Current recommendations are that half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables or salad (or ¼ veggies and ¼ fruit), ¼ should be protein, and ¼ should be whole grains or starchy vegetables like potatoes. Don’t skimp on vegetables or salad servings, but do be mindful of any extras such as sauces, salad dressings, cheese, croutons, and so on. Plate your food in the kitchen rather than leaving serving dishes on the table. Put leftovers away as soon as possible so you won’t be tempted to pick at them. Eat slowly and mindfully. We tend to eat more when we’re distracted. Take smaller bites and chew food well. Give your body a chance to signal that you’re full.

Be mindful of the amount of food you eat, the healthy choices as well as the occasional splurge, and you’ll find it easier to maintain your weight loss.