Portion control is a key step to maintaining a healthy weight. But if you’re like the majority of working Americans, a busy schedule often means grabbing a fast, not-so-healthy lunch on the go — and many of these grab-and-go options carry multiple servings in a single package. If you’re not careful, you may eat two or three servings in one sitting without realizing it.
This is because our idea of proper portion sizes is often distorted by labels, according to 2013 study from Cornell University. To measure the impact labels have on our eating habits, researchers served two different portion sizes of spaghetti to participants — one cup (small) or two cups (large). For some, the small portion was labeled “half-size” and the large portion was labeled “regular,” giving participants the impression that the larger portion was the normal size. For the others, the same portions were labeled "regular" for the small and "double-size” for the large, leading participants to believe that the smaller portion was the norm.
Despite actual portion sizes, participants ate up to 10 times more when the larger portion was labeled "regular" than when it was labeled "double-size.” Through a similar experiment, the same researchers also determined that people are willing to pay more for food with a label that makes the portion sound larger than it actually is — proof that misguided labels not only put a damper on our healthy eating goals, but they put a dent in our wallets as well.
Even though portion sizes are growing — especially with high-calorie foods like French fries or soft drinks — your waistline doesn’t have to. Take control over the amount of food you eat. Here are a few tips to help you manage your portions:
• Put it in a doggy bag: When eating out, split your meal with a friend or ask the waiter to put half of your meal in a to-go box as soon as your food arrives.
• Eat slowly: If you tend to eat quickly, your brain may not get the message that it’s full until it’s too late. Savor your food, eat slowly and pay closer attention to feelings of fullness.
• Stash your snacks: When you’re craving a snack, avoid mindless munching by putting a single serving in a separate container or bowl, rather than eating straight out of the package.
• Snack smart: Eat a light (healthy) snack, like almonds or carrot sticks, in between meals to help you avoid overeating or choosing a less healthy option at mealtime.
• Measure it out: When there is no label to help guide you, use your hand or another everyday object as a measuring tool to help you determine proper serving sizes. For example, one serving of meat or poultry is about the size of your hand or a deck of cards, and half a cup of veggies is about the same size as half a baseball.
• Use smaller plates: Using a smaller plate gives the illusion of more food, helping you eat less.
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How do you control your food portions? Please share your advice and comments!