By Debra Pivko
When it comes to food portions, size matters. In a world filled with "supersized" options, all-you-can-eat buffets, and extra-large pizzas, it's no wonder people overeat. Have you ever found yourself in one of these situations?
- Eating snacks straight out of the bag while watching television, or even grabbing a second bag to munch on because your show is still on.
- Continuing to finish your food at a restaurant because others are still eating, even though you're full.
- Arriving at a party starving, so your dinner consists of fried appetizers and mayo-laden salads.
- Eating an entire packaged item only to realize later that it actually contained multiple servings.
I know I've been there. Once in a while is OK, but doing this too often can supersize your waistline and your risk for medical complications, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. With just a little bit of preparation and planning, you can keep your eating habits and your portion sizes under control.
1. Doggie-bag it. Don't finish your food just because it's there—or because you're still at the restaurant waiting for others to finish. Most restaurant portions contain more food and calories than you need for one meal. Bring your leftover food home, or allow the busboy to take it away early. Even better, have the server pack half of it to go before bringing it to you. It seems like an odd request, but it's not uncommon these days
2. Share with a friend. When you split a meal, not only do you cut the price in half, but you cut the calories in half, too!
3. Order the lunch or appetizer portion. Lunch and appetizer portions are cheaper and contain fewer calories than full-sized portions.
4. Avoid buffets and all-you-can-eat specials. If you're like me, you want to try everything when you go to a buffet. That's why it's better to avoid buffets when you're trying to control the size of your portions. When you have no choice about where you go (like a large family gathering or party), find the smallest plate and fill it up with the healthy stuff like grilled chicken and vegetables first. If you must go back for more, allow yourself one trip. And only get what you really want. It's such a common habit to take a bit of everything, but if you can savor one reasonably sized serving of your favorite item, you'll enjoy it a lot more.
5. Choose items with large portions of veggies. Or order salad or fruit on the side instead of fries. If you're starving, you can fill up on high-nutrient, low-calorie food to keep full.
6. Eat your favorite "indulgence" foods every now and again. Totally denying yourself the foods you take pleasure in is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. So go ahead and treat yourself once in a while to avoid feeling deprived. But eat a smaller portion, and savor every bite.
7. Hang up fridge visuals. Don't swing the fridge door open mindlessly. Think before you eat. Hang up a picture of how you once looked, that one piece of clothing you wish you could fit into, someone who you want to look like, or even someone you don't want to look like. Take a moment to think about what you're really hungry for and about your weight loss/health goals before you grab something out of the fridge. I've gone as far as putting up a "closed after 9 PM" sign on mine, since I can't seem to find a fridge lock with a timer.
8. Preplan your groceries. Don't shop when you're hungry and you'll be less likely to bring unhealthy food home. Stock your house with healthy foods and snacks that are easy to grab when you're hungry, such as fruit, cut-up vegetables with hummus, or light cheese and crackers. You can also purchase single-serving snacks. I love The Skinny Cow® ice cream sandwiches. (Mint chocolate is my favorite.) They're less than 150 calories and are preportioned so I know when I'm finished.
9. Don't eat straight out of the box or bag. If you do this, odds are you'll finish everything in it—or at least eat more than one serving. Instead, fill a small container or baggie with a single serving and leave the rest in the kitchen.
10. Break leftovers down. Instead of putting leftovers in one big container, break them down into single-serving meals or snack-sized portions before storing them.
11. Hang wall mirrors. We tend not to eat as much when we see ourselves.
12. Use smaller plates. If you can't fit as much food on the plate, you're likely to eat a smaller portion. Even better, use non-microwavable plates so you can't heat up seconds—lay down a sheet of wrinkled-up foil, or use one of Grandma's metal-glazed dishes; both are considered unsafe for microwave use by the USDA.
13. Don't put serving bowls of food on the table. Fill your plate in the kitchen and put your leftovers away promptly after they cool so it's too much of an effort to go back to the kitchen to get seconds.
14. Look at the serving size listed on the package. You may not realize you're actually dishing out a double serving of packaged food for yourself. Make sure you look at the nutrition label so you aren't overeating without even knowing it.
15. BYOL (bring your own lunch). When you make your own lunch, you get to control the portion and exactly what's in it. Cook a big batch of food on Sunday, like pasta and veggies or chicken and brown rice, then refrigerate or freeze portions to take with you.
16. Keep healthy snacks at your desk. When you have healthy snacks at your desk, you won't be as tempted to head over to the vending machine for candy or chips. I love Pirate's Booty® Aged White Cheddar baked corn and rice puffs at 130 calories per serving, or Kashi® TLC Honey Sesame snack crackers. Make sure to divide them into single portions in baggies so you don't overeat. And keep them tucked away in a drawer rather than on top of the desk in plain sight.
17. Keep protein bars handy. Protein bars can be a lifesaver when you don't have time to run out to get food, or a meeting postpones your lunch for a couple of hours. Watch out for bars that only have a few grams of protein and seem to taste more like candy bars than meal replacements. P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bars are jam-packed with 20 grams of protein. My favorite flavor is the chocolate fudge. They save my stomach from growling louder than the speaker in meetings and can replace a meal in an emergency.
18. Research healthy lunch places near work. A few minutes of research can save you calories in the long run. Some places have light menu options with smaller portions that contain fewer calories. Plus, you can look up the nutrition information for many popular restaurants online even if they're not posted on the menu. And, of course, remember to avoid those all-you-can-eat specials.
19. Stock up on Shakeology® single-serving packets. I actually set reminders in my email calendar for 3:30 each day so I remember to have a Shakeology shake as my afternoon snack. It keeps me from raiding the fridge like a maniac when I get home for dinner. Shakeology single-serving packets not only contain protein and fiber that help you feel full, but also whole-food ingredients to nourish your body—all with only 140 calories a serving. I know that whether or not I eat healthily throughout the day, as long as I have my Shakeology, I'll be getting all the nutrients I need, and I'll feel full so I won't overeat.
20. Drink tea—and lots of water. If you're filling up on zero-calorie water and tea, you'll feel fuller and eat less when it's mealtime.
21. Log what you eat. Hold yourself accountable for what you eat. If you're a Team Beachbody® member, you can track your meals here or keep a notepad handy if you're not near a computer. Keeping track of everything you eat will help you take a closer look at your eating habits so you can make better choices.
22. Don't always have your cake and eat it too. There are about 300 people who work with me. If I ate cake every time there was a birthday, I'd have it almost daily. (Fortunately, Beachbody discourages people from bringing sweets to the office.) It's OK to treat yourself to some cake occasionally, but don't always eat it just because it's there. Make sure that when you do choose to indulge, you stick to your nutritious meal plan for the rest of the day, and just augment it with a small slice of cake.
23. Bring healthy snacks to meetings. If you're hosting a meeting, instead of the usual donuts and pastries, provide fruit, veggies, hummus, cheese, and wheat crackers. If you're not in charge of food-planning for meetings, break room, or vending machines, request that healthy food alternatives be made available at your office. After all, a sugar crash 30 minutes after the morning meeting isn't going to boost anybody's productivity.
24. Pre-eat. Before you leave home for a party, eat your own healthy, nutritious food. When you arrive at the party, you can focus on the people and the festivities instead of making a beeline for the buffet table. You can still enjoy tasting the appetizers, but you'll be satisfied with less.
25. Be a healthy host. Hosting a party? Serve healthy food. Your guests will thank you—plus you'll probably burn a ton of calories running around playing host!
26. Wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds. Sometimes, especially at extravagant parties, there's an endless variety of delectable food you'd never make or buy for yourself. Make sure you sit down with your first plate and eat slowly. It's okay to go for seconds, but before you do, take your time enjoying your food and conversing with fellow partygoers for at least 20 minutes while that first round of food digests. After you do, you may realize you've already had enough. And if you do decide to go back for seconds, don't restock the plate with everything on the table. Just take a small amount of a few of your favorites.
27. Don't hover around the food table. This is a recipe for disaster. I've found myself picking up olives and crackers as if my hand had a mind of its own. Take a cracker and run—far, far away from the food table. If you're still hungry, walk back over—but don't hover. Your waistline will thank you.
28. Treat yourself with nonedible rewards. It's natural for people to associate events and personal accomplishments with food. Holidays, weddings, football games, movies, job promotions, housewarmings, school events, community celebrations—customarily, they're celebrated with food. Instead, though, try treating yourself with nonedible rewards. Work out, watch a TV show, get a massage or a manicure, buy a new outfit, or phone a friend to share your excitement. Focus on the reason for the celebration rather than the food.
29. Dress to impress. Don't wear clothes that let you overeat without feeling or showing it. If you wear extra-loose, über-comfy clothes—or ones with an elasticized waistband—you might eat more. Instead, try wearing an outfit you look great in—if possible, one that's a little bit formfitting. Then there's less room to get away with eating too much. Besides, you'll get deluged with compliments that'll make you feel so great you won't want to overeat.
Mastering portion control will give you more control over your body and your life. Whether you're at a restaurant, at home, at work, or at a party, there's no excuse. You have the power to set yourself up for success. Being mindful of your portions will help you feel better right after each meal, which will help you manage your weight more effectively. You'll learn how to enjoy your favorite foods, boost your health, and even save some cash by eating less. Now isn't that worth a little bit of effort and planning ahead?