How are you doing with your weight-loss goals? Were you able to identify a goal and make changes toward reaching it? Did you keep a food record and decrease your calorie intake? Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below!
Portions are one of the biggest barriers to weight loss, especially if you eat out often. Restaurants typically serve 2-3 times an appropriate serving size in any given meal, which can really add up if you eat out even a few times a week. Even fast food portions have evolved to match Americans’ growing waistlines.
This is especially a problem when it comes to sugary drinks that have little nutritional value. They end up taking up a substantial amount of calories without providing you any important nutrients. Without protein, fiber, or even fat, your body will still feel hungry, even if you consumed 500 calories worth of soda! To help you get a grip on portions, I’m going to outline the serving size on a few common components in the American diet.
- Meat, Poultry, and Fish: 3-4 ounces
- Cooked Vegetables or Fruit: 1/2 cup
- Raw Fruit or Vegetables: 1 cup
- Starches (Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, etc): 1/2 cup
- Snack Foods (Pretzels, Chips, and Crackers): 3/4- 1 ounce
- Milk: 1 cup
- Yogurt: 2/3 cup
- Cheese: 1 ounce
- Peanut Butter and Salad Dressing: 2 tbsp
- Butter, mayonnaise and oils: 1 teaspoon
- Nuts: 1 ounce
You can also find the serving size on the label of packaged foods. Many times, snack foods and drinks contain more than one serving, so you may be eating more than you think! Always check the label for the serving size on packaged foods.
One way to help you gain control of your portions is to measure out EVERYTHING you eat. Yes, it’s a pain, but after about a week, you will be able to recognize an appropriate portion more easily without measuring. For this, you’ll need a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons. If you don’t already have some, they are pretty inexpensive. Another way to measure everything is by weighing it. The KitchenIQ Wireless Nutri Scale is one way to help you weigh foods like cheese, nuts, and snacks that have serving sizes listed in ounces. If you go a little over or under the serving size, you will still know the nutrition content of that food since the data goes straight to your smart phone. Pretty cool!
Another way to help you keep portion sizes in check is to use your hand or other visual models. These charts can really help when you’re on the go and don’t have measuring cups handy.
So what if you’ve measured out all of your food at appropriate portions, but you’re still hungry? That’s okay! It’s perfectly normal to still be hungry when you’re trying to re-train your eyes, stomach and brain to know correct portion sizes. The key is to satisfy that hunger in a smart way. First, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or just not satisfied with smaller portions. If you aren’t actually hungry, try eating more slowly next time and really taking the time to enjoy your food. You may find that you end up feeling more full and more satisfied with less food. We call this approach mindful eating.
If you are actually still hungry, then go ahead and eat a little more, just aim for something lower in calories. Assuming you’ve had a balanced meal, already, there is always more room for another serving of vegetables! Veggies have the special ability to fill you up with very few calories since they are full of protein and water. And they typically take longer to chew, which means you may feel more satisfied. If you’re hungry for an after-meal snack, try munching on fresh fruit for a little sweetness that’s still filling and low-calorie.
If you are looking at these portions thinking, there is no way I can eat that little food, that’s okay! Just give it a try. Measure everything, double up on your veggie portions, and just stick it out for a week or so. You may find that you start to feel less hungry and can better regulate your portion sizes. If portion sizes are a barrier for your weight loss, then this is your goal: Start measuring. Every meal and snack, every day for at least a week. Getting a good grip on portions might be the key to helping you succeed!