There is no doubt that portion sizes in the United States have grown over the last 30 years.
Not surprisingly, so has our nation’s obesity rate.
Though we cannot exclusively blame portion size for the increasing number of overweight people nationwide, it is undoubtedly a contributing factor.
If you have grown accustomed to generously proportioned meals and it is beginning to show, trimming those meals should be a top priority.
Cutting back can be hard, but following a few simple steps can help you to reduce your portions without going hungry.
FIND YOUR FAVORITES
Eating snacks during a once-a-month trip to the movies or a rare trip to an all-you-can-eat restaurant is not going to add as many pounds as the calories you eat every day.
Using food labels, or the USDA’s Supertracker website, calculate how many calories are in some of your daily meals and snacks, making sure to adjust the calories for your typical portion.
For example, a slice of cheese pizza has about 300 calories (one-eighth of a typical frozen pizza), but if you eat half of the pizza, you have consumed 1,200 calories.
A serving of ice cream is only 150 calories, but it is also only a half cup. If you fill even a coffee cup, you are eating three servings and 450 calories.
Once you figure out which of your portions are oversized, plan on trimming them down so you can still include this food in your diet.
If you have been enjoying quarter-pound burgers on a bun with two slices of cheese regularly, consider that a slider on a smaller bun with half a slice of cheese could save you 280 calories. You would have to walk 3½ miles to burn off those extra calories.
Switching from 2 cups of spaghetti with sauce and 3 large meatballs to one cup of spaghetti and sauce with 3 small meatballs could save you 525 calories or an hour of swimming laps.
By now, you may be wondering how you are going to survive through the night on one slice of pizza. You would survive, but your stomach would probably be growling.
The trick is to fill in the rest of your plate with lower-calorie foods. My Plate, the USDA’s current dietary guideline, recommends that half of your plate be vegetables and fruit. These are typically lower in calories than foods from the other food groups and have more fiber to help fill you up.
Adding one cup of carrot and celery sticks to your slice of pizza adds only 36 calories. Even adding dip, this meal would have a lot fewer calories than a few slices of pizza.
A large side salad has only 26 calories, so along with some dressing and the smaller portion of spaghetti, it is still a significant caloric savings from the big plate of spaghetti.
TAKE YOUR TIME
It is important to take your time when you are eating. Not only will you enjoy the food more and be satisfied by those smaller portions, but you are likely to find that you were not hungry for more to begin with.
It truly does take a while for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you are full.
So eating more slowly and waiting a bit before heading back for seconds is a great way to control portion size.
I think it is important to enjoy our favorite foods as part of a healthy lifestyle. Limiting portions is a good way to continue enjoying the foods you love while cutting back on calories.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.