Portion distortion and food control

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By Melissa Hight, County Extension


uality or quantity? Which do you choose when it comes to food? 

Ever eaten at a restaurant that brings you huge quantities of food that is pretty mediocre on the taste scale? We often leave those places talking about how much food we were served or how much food we were able to bring home for another meal and what a bargain it was. 

Try changing your way of thinking and enjoy smaller quantities of food that is deliciously prepared with high-quality, fresh ingredients.

If you ask anyone who has tackled long-term weight loss how they did it, you can bet they will mention learning to eat smaller portion sizes and consuming food more slowly. In fact, portion size can make or break your weight loss efforts. 

Learn how to size up servings and avoid overeating with the following ways to control portions.

Store leftovers in individual portions

Instead of using a large container to store leftovers such as casseroles, side dishes or pasta, separate them into individually sized containers? 

We usually put away leftovers after a meal and at a time when we are not hungry. It is easier to divide the portions into realistic sizes than when you are taking food from one big container and you are hungry. 

When you reach in the fridge to find something to reheat, you’re retrieving just enough for one helping. Breaking down meal-sized servings into single servings will help you limit your food intake with no additional effort. 

Say yes to salads

Eating a salad before lunch or dinner is a sure-fire way to keep from overeating. It will help curb your appetite and give you a sense of being full sooner. 

To reap full portion control benefits from rabbit food, load up your salad with veggies or even lean meat like turkey cubes. The fiber in the veggies will help you feel fuller and lean meat’s protein will give you an instant energy boost. 

Beware of adding too much high-fat dressing—you could defeat the purpose.

Single out trigger foods

Buy snack foods in single-serving sizes or divide up full-size packages into smaller, individual bags. 

It may be difficult to stop eating tortilla chips straight out of the bag while watching your favorite TV show but are you as likely to inhale the contents of 12 snack bags without some forethought? Doubtful. 

Move over to mini meals

You can make sure your blood sugar stays more level and keep hunger at bay by eating healthy small meals throughout the day. Many folks swear by mini meals to maintain weight and keep their energy level up. Mini meals are a great way to prevent overeating because you’ll get never too hungry and lose control of your portion intake. 

Keep seconds out of sight

Don’t serve family meals family-style. Pots and dishes near the table will make it all too easy to go for seconds. 

Making your way from the table to the stovetop gives you an opportunity to re-think whether you really want a second serving. Try telling yourself to sit back down and wait it out. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to notify your brain you are full. You might realize you really were not hungry enough for another helping after all. 

Make meat a side dish

Treat meat or meat-based entrees as a side dish rather than the main part of your meal. 

Load up on veggies and healthy grains as the bulk of your meal instead of using them as sides and you will feel full sooner—while getting extra vitamins and fiber. Try new vegetables and preparation methods to keep things interesting. 

Let one meal make two

Make lunch a “two-fer.” Your lunch meal can work double duty by being shared or serving as dinner. If ordering takeout at work, why not split one meal with a buddy? When at a restaurant, set aside half of your meal before you even start eating and save that for another meal.

Eat like a child

Order a kid’s size meal when you go to fast food places. You’ll receive automatically controlled portions and save money too. 

Don’t be embarrassed about asking for a child’s meal. More people do it than you realize. If it bothers you, order it to go and then eat in the dining room or take it with you. Chances are, no one will even notice. You can save the toy for a child.

Master serving sizes

Learn to “eyeball” standard portion sizes and stick to them when dining out or dishing up meals. Remember: 3 oz. of meat is the size of a deck of cards or an audio tape; a half cup of pasta is the size of a tennis ball and a medium potato is the size of a computer mouse. 

Slow down

Many people wolf down their food so quickly they do not even taste it. If you have problems with eating too fast, try putting your fork down on your plate in between bites of food until you are able to slow down. You will find you eat considerably less before you feel full.

Bonus—treat yourself

And last, but not least...indulge occasionally.

Treating yourself once in a while to a “forbidden” food will keep you from feeling deprived that can easily lead to overeating. Stop a binge before it starts by indulging every now and then.