The key to healthy eating practices is about both quality and quantity. We all know what quality entails: eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and indulging in fewer desserts, sodas and chips. However, quantity is the other, very important half of the equation.
When it comes to ensuring you don’t overeat, you might picture delicate scales and tiny measuring spoons that some celebrities or fitness influencers use to get their serving of black beans down to the individual bean, or to count the exact number of grains of brown rice on their plate, it seems. Keeping such exact measurements is admirable, but is more common for people whose careers revolve around athletics. When it comes to the average person who is simply trying to eat more healthfully, it’s generally not feasible or enjoyable to count so closely.
That doesn’t mean we get a free pass to ignore portion control, though. It’s been proven that the portion sizes of meals at restaurants are remarkably larger than recommended; sometimes even double a normal serving size, or more—and if it’s served to us, we’re likely to consume it. It’s a similar case with pre-packaged foods like crackers and cookies. It’s human nature to eat the available food in front of us, so if we’re faced with an entire box or bag snacks, or a full plate at a restaurant, our impulse will be to eat as much as possible.
The question is, how can we find the happy medium between overindulging, and meticulously weighing our dinner, bean by bean? We’ve gathered a few tips to help you out with portion control in any situation.
Healthy portion size when dining out:
Since it’s a known fact that restaurant portions are generally larger than they should be, splitting an entree usually equates to a more reasonable amount of food for each person. Split your meal with a friend, or order a to-go box when you order your meal so you can pack up half of it immediately to eat later. Don’t forget to ask for dressings and sauces on the side, too! You can still enjoy them, but you’ll likely use less when doing it yourself than the chef would drizzle on. Finally, if you have advanced notice, take a look at the restaurant’s menu online ahead of time. Even if they don’t have nutrition facts (although if they do, even better!), you can plan what you’ll order ahead of time, instead of waiting till you’re ravenous at the table. The latter can lead to impulse-orders like an extra side of fries or an indulgent appetizer, which can really tip you over the edge for number of calories consumed in one sitting!
Healthy portion size when snacking on prepackaged foods:
Although it’s generally not necessary for the average person to count each milligram of every measurement on a nutrition label, you should definitely still look at the basics. Take your focus first towards the serving size listed at the top. Once you’ve got the serving size of, let’s say, a jar of almonds, the best practice is to portion them out yourself into individual plastic bags or small containers. The difference between enjoying one of your pre-portioned servings of almonds versus a handful from the jar is all mental; when you tell your mind that you only have the 20 almonds in front of you to eat right now, you’re likely to savor each one. If you have an uncounted handful though, you may tend to eat more mindlessly, and go back for more without really registering that you’ve just gone way over the recommended serving size.
Healthy portion size when cooking and dining at home:
The first trick is to keep some distance between the serving dish and your own plate. If you have to get up and go to the stove to dish up, you’re less likely to impulsively take seconds when you don’t need to. One other tip has to do with your plate itself; for best results with portion control, smaller plates are better! It’s psychologically proven that if you have the exact same amount of food on two plates, one large and one small, our brains register the portion on the larger plate as less food. As with so many things related to health and fitness, the mental aspect is key! So try enjoying your next dinner at home on a smaller plate so that your brain doesn’t trick you into thinking you need more.
Our final tip? Practice eating mindfully!
In our modern world of packed schedules and on-the-go eats, it’s easy to treat eating as just another task to quickly check off the list. If you’re having trouble with portion control, first try simply slowing down. If you eat extremely quickly, you may consume more food than you need before your body has the chance to send the signal that you’re full—but if you savor each bite, be present, and enjoy the gift of the meal you have in front of you, you’ll take your time. That means that your body will have time to properly digest and tell you when it’s full, so you can stop eating before you go overboard.
When it comes to living healthfully, the friendly staff at Bootique is exactly who you want on your side! Our trainers not only have a lot of knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle, but they live healthfully themselves, and they love to help others do the same! That’s the Bootique way; be strong, be fit, and be happy while doing it.
If you’d like to know more about our cardio fitness and outdoor boot camp classes in San Diego, or personal training in La Jolla, Mission Valley, Hillcrest and other areas in the city, contact us! We’d love to get you in for your first class so you can experience the Bootique community for yourself.