A hand slicing a piece of beef at dinner

How to Practice Portion Control

When it comes to a balanced diet, volume is just as important as variety. Over the past few decades, there’s been a significant increase in portion sizes that has reshaped Americans’ eating habits.

Many consider portion control a difficult practice. Research shows adults consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did in 1985. “I think everybody has a problem with it,” says Michelle Dunaway, anchor at 9 and 10 News and host of The Four. “I don’t think there’s anyone who is good all the time at making sure they’re only eating until they’re feeling a little bit full.”

Eating is more than just fueling your body. It’s influenced by emotions and behaviors that can dictate how much you consume. To encourage healthier choices, the FDA created dietary guidelines for everyone to follow.

“The FDA has approved a serving size, but a serving size and a portion size are very different,” explains Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Everyone has different health goals, based on your age, height, gender … so that serving size isn’t the end all, be all.”

On the latest episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he, Derocha and Dunaway discuss portion control and how it applies to your lifestyle.

During the holidays, it can be difficult to maintain boundaries with food. So, it’s important to focus on balance, not restriction. “If you want to have a little bit more turkey, maybe you do,” says Derocha. “But then maybe you don’t do extra mashed potatoes and stuffing.”

When it comes to portion sizes, all foods are not treated equally. There are certain things you can have more of like vegetables, due to their high-water content. For protein sources, such as meat and nuts, three to four ounces will suffice. That’s equivalent to a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

“If you’re going to go to a party, drink a lot of water before,” adds Dunaway. When a person feels hunger, it may actually be thirst. By staying hydrated you can avoid confusing signals and cut down on excessive snacking. Also, offer to bring healthier meal options like a salad or veggie tray. It’s an easy and hospitable way to set yourself up for success.

Look to food for nourishment, not comfort. If you’re bored, avoid mindless eating and engage in another activity. “I have a problem with boredom, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to have…,’” reveals Dunaway. “That’s a big crutch for me. [But] brushing your teeth sometimes helps because nothing tastes good after.”

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Photo credit: PeopleImages

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