We’ve all been there. You’re starved, and whatever it is that you are presently consuming just tastes so good that there is no question you’ll eat until it’s gone.
Maybe you were working out in the yard for hours, or had a very long workout, and your body is ready to replenish itself and the worst part — the food available is just oh, so good!
And then there are times you just want to devour a carton of ice cream, or a bag of chips, out of boredom or some other need for emotional fulfillment.
Overeating here and there won’t make too much of an impact on your diet. If you’re pretty good most of the time, that extreme fullness you feel afterward will tell your brain to avoid such unpleasant, bust-a-gut situations in the near future.
However, if you’re prone to indulging too much too often, the health consequences will stack up against you, similar to that 10-level Dagwood sandwich you just consumed with a 2-liter bottle of soda.
Cravings are more a product of the mind than of the stomach, and a nasty pattern can set in whereas a snacking habit can become all too easy and an unhealthy crutch. Snacking in between meals is where many people get in trouble with their diet. Grocery stores and big-box retailers enable overeating with their enormous containers of tasty treats loaded with fat, sugar and carbohydrates.
And everybody’s idea of a bowl of cereal is different. Some think of a small bowl with a small portion of milk. Others may pour in 1/3 of a box and a quart of milk.
Portion control can take the guesswork out of figuring how much of some food item you can consume at a given time.
First you need to determine if your goal is weight loss, or weight management.
This is a good time to consult a physician, who will be able to provide you with a good daily calorie count for your goals.
Product information (nutrition) labels on your food containers will help you determine what portion will best suit your health needs.
I’ve found that by doing multiple portions at snack time, I can trick my body into thinking I’ve consumed more food. Nuts and dried fruit are a particular favorite, and a small serving of pretzels or some other carbohydrate can get me through a few hours, no matter how active I am.
I’ve also heard some people have had success with portion control plates. They remind me of cafeteria trays, with little insets for each food item. I can see how they would work, I just could never get over the relation to school lunches, even though most of mine were luckily quite enjoyable.
Small food scales can work well for those who like to weigh out certain items, and I’ve heard they work well for determining the right amount of proteins for each serving. Remember — if you’re using lean protein, your servings are not quite as critical, but if there is a great deal of fat involved — pork or beef products — the serving size needs to be closely monitored.
Wrapping your mind around portion control can be daunting. The best way to success is to gradually reduce your caloric intake, and steadily decrease the unhealthy snack size while increasing the healthy alternatives. Try some celery or carrot sticks in place of some of those tortilla or potato chips. When I’m craving something salty, celery works well, and baby carrots have a good sweetness to them when something of that order is needed.
Another good trick I learned deals with eating out. By and large, the portions served by most restaurants are way more than a normal person needs to consume in one meal. Add in bread, chips and salsa or peanuts as well as an appetizer, and the limit has been far exceeded.
Most of the times I go out to eat, I will portion at least half my plate to take home, or the wife and I will split an entree. Gone are the days when restaurants frowned upon sharing an order, but it has become much more commonplace, and as long as you and your spouse can agree on something from the menu, it can be a money saver as well.
Vacations can be a diet buster as well, unless a little forethought is undertaken. I’ll use snack baggies to organize my granola, oatmeal and snack items. Once we are away from home, I can just retrieve one from the pantry and it’s also a great timesaver and avoids messy prep.
I would be remiss by not including water intake when talking about portion control. The Mayo Clinic suggests an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.
While needs vary among different people, regular water intake will give you that full feeling, so when you are snacking or consuming a meal, you’ll feel fuller quicker. A good tip is to drink a glass of water before a meal, meaning that “full” message will be sent to your brain while you’re still eating.
It’s amazing what a little “mind over matter” logic can do for the human body. Whether you’re a control freak or not, I bet you’ll find that life is simpler when your take the guesswork out of your portion size.
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Jerry Hitchcock can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at HitchTheWriter.