Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lose weight with proper portion control

Understanding serving sizes — which often aren't as large as you'd think — is key to losing weight.

Eating sensible food portions (portion control) is essential to weight loss as well as to maintaining a healthy weight. Unfortunately, the importance of portion control is often underestimated. In fact, the trend toward larger food portions gets much of the blame for the growing number of overweight people.

You may think one portion of food is the same as one serving, but that's rarely correct. A serving is a standardized amount of food with specific calorie and nutrient content. Servings usually are defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. On the other hand, a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat and is often greater than one serving size. Understanding this distinction can help you learn how to eat the right amount of food.

Sizing up your servings

One thing that's easy enough to overlook is that it's not enough to eat the right type of food, it's extremely important to make sure you eat the correct amount, too. The size of the portions we eat has a direct impact on our nutrient and calorie intake and affects our weight and overall state of health just as much as the types of food we put on our plates. It's extremely important, doctors say, to avoid large helpings of high-calorie foods and to eat more of the good stuff – low-calorie food such as fruit and vegetables.

The first step in portion control is to understand serving sizes, which may be smaller than you think. Use these visualizations to estimate appropriate serving sizes:

- A medium apple or orange is the size of a tennis ball.
- A medium potato is the size of a computer mouse.
- An average bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
- A cup of fruit is the size of a baseball.
- Three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards.
- Three ounces of grilled fish is the size of your checkbook.
- One ounce of cheese is the size of four dice.
- One teaspoon of peanut butter is the size of the tip of your thumb.

For those of you who never considered portion control so far, are reluctant about buying scales and feel that weighing food would take the fun out of eating, the nutritionists of the prestigious Mayo Clinic have come up with a series of what they call "everyday equivalents" for portion sizes. The point is to make things simpler, not more complicated – and the system they propose for judging serving sizes may be the ideal first step in the right direction. Here is the Mayo Clinic rough guide to portion control, applied to the various food types and groups.

1. Grains

A serving of cooked macaroni = 1/2 cup (think of the size of an ice-cream scoop)
Cooked pasta or oatmeal = 1/2 cup
Whole-wheat bread = 1 slice
Whole-wheat crackers = 6 whole

2. Fruit

One serving = one cup (about the size of a tennis ball) mixed berries, cherries or cantaloupe cubes
Apple, pear or banana = 1 small fruit
100 % fruit juice = 1/2 cup

3. Vegetables

One serving = 1/2 cup cooked carrots
Raw leafy vegetables = 2 cups
Raw vegetables, chopped = 1 cup
Chopped, cooked or canned vegetables = 1/2 cup

4. Dairy products

One serving of low-fat cheddar cheese = 2 ounces (about the size of two dominoes)
Low-fat / fat-free milk or yogurt = 1 cup
Mozzarella cheese (part-skimmed) = 1 1/2 ounces (about 1/3 cup shredded)

5. Meat and beans

Portion control will help you keep your calorie intake under control
One 3-ounce serving of fish = about the size of a deck of cards.
Poultry / fish (cooked skinless) = 3 ounces
Cooked lean meat = 1 1/2 ounces
Cooked legumes or dried beans = 1/2 cup (the size of an ice cream scoop)
Egg = 1 medium

Remember - as long as you stay in firm control of the type and the amount of food that you eat, there's nothing stopping you from embarking on a fitness regime to match your ultimate purpose, whether we're talking about losing weight, lowering your cholesterol or simply maintaining your present weight while struggling to balance a hectic job, a family and a healthy lifestyle.

Food-label servings

You often see serving sizes listed on food labels. They aren't a recommendation of how much you should eat, but are simply the amount of food on which the product's nutritional analysis is based. This information allows you to compare the nutritional value of one product with that of another.

Food-label servings are based on the amount of that particular food that people normally eat and are listed using standard household measurements, such as cups, ounces or pieces. Check to see if the amount you normally eat is similar to the serving size on the label. If you eat more, then the number of calories and nutrients you get from that item will be higher. A figure indicating the servings per container also is included so that you can calculate the calories and nutrients in the entire package.

Right-size your portions

If you're finding it difficult to bring your portions in line with recommended servings, try these suggestions:

* Read food labels to determine serving sizes.
* Discourage overeating by placing only the appropriate servings of food on dinner plates, rather than put serving bowls on the table.
* Don't eat second helpings.
* When eating out, ask for a takeout container. Save part of the meal for another time.
* Split a meal with your spouse or friend.
* Don't feel as if you have to clean your plate.

No comments: