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Portion Control tips I learned in NYC


NYC eats: Baked fish over creamed cauliflower with Brussels sprouts (left) and an omelet and pumpkin muffin (right) 

After our New York trip, we landed in Atlanta where JT and Joey picked us up. We stopped at Longhorn for dinner because the boys wanted to eat after their drive and there are few options between there and Alabama. It was there that I realized the difference in portion sizes. The salad I ordered was at least the size of 2 salads in New York. Then, I thought about how full we felt after the meals in NYC and if they filled us up, then half of this salad should too. Another thing I noticed while on vacation was the large amount of protein served. In our chicken and fish meals, the meat was about 6 ounces of meat while the rice and starchy sides were about 1/2 cup serving sizes.

I often talk with families who are unwilling to change a lot of the foods they eat; for various reasons. Some, eat out a lot and don't see how they can make it work to cook more at home, some have picky family members who eat no green foods. Whatever the case, I usually tell them to simply work on portion size first. If you eat smaller portions of even fast food, you can still lose weight. Of course, my hope is that they eventually will want to make changes in the types of food they choose as well, but one step at a time.

5 Tips for portion control

1) Use measuring cups at home every once in a while.
This helps retrain your brain to what actual portions look like versus what restaurants tell us portions are. A 1/2 cup serving of rice is far less than the plate full of rice that the Chinese restaurant gives you. Once you get used to seeing the actual 1/2 cup at home, you will realize how much extra food you are being served at restaurants.

2) Pack up half your food before you even start to eat.
Studies show that a smaller plate tricks your brain into feeling fuller faster. Ask the waiter for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and go ahead and put half of the food in it.

3) Eat mindfully.
Before you even start eating, identify the foods on the plate you are going to eat. When we ate at the Mexican restaurant in Atlanta the night before leaving for New York, the pollo fundido I ordered came with two chicken breasts. I couldn't take it to go because we were in a hotel, but I had already made up my mind that I would be full after one chicken breast and no rice (I don't like rice).

4) Stop when you are full.
This follows eating mindfully for a reason. Eating with intention of being full and not finishing your plate helps you to learn to recognize when you are full and not stuffed from overeating. This has always been a hard lesson for me and I have to intentionally think about it every time I eat. Like most people, I grew up with the "waste not want not" mentality and that, along with mission trips to Honduras, have led me to dislike food waste; which is both good and bad. So that I don't overeat or waste, I remind myself that if I eat the second half of my plate for lunch tomorrow, that makes my meal cheaper because I am getting two meals out of one!

5) Don't wait until you're hungry to plan your meal and eat.
If our bodies go more than 4 hours without food, they begin to crave sugary and calorie dense foods. If we wait until you are hungry to eat, we are more likely to make worse food choices than we would have if we weren't famished. One of the biggest parts of healthy eating is planning ahead. Each day, you should have an idea of what you (and your family) will be doing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then stick to it. Having a plan can help keep you from making the oh so familiar--- I'm starving-what can I eat---decisions.

What tricks have you learned to help with portion control?

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