Portion Control

Portion Control Through advertising, bulk packaging and ever increasing meal sizes, perceptions of portions and serving sizes have become skewed.

A TV commercial will pan across the image of a whole pizza, breadsticks, a two-liter of soda and usually a large dessert. The pizza alone averages around 2,000 calories, so the calories represented in a single commercial far outweigh the average recommended daily allowance of calories. In contrast, a single slice of pizza contains around 250 calories.

Recognizing Portion Sizes

New portion guides, such as those provided by Mayo Clinic, provide visual representations of a single serving, which can help reverse the trend of portion misperception. Take these examples:

  • One serving of lean meat (3 ounces) is equal to a deck of cards.
  • A serving of cheddar cheese is equal to four dice.
  • One serving of fruit (1/2 cup) is equal to a tennis ball.
  • A serving of cooked carrots (1/2 cup) is equal to a baseball.
  • A serving of pasta or cereal (1/2 cup) is the size of a hockey puck.

One of the best ways to understand portions is to look at the nutrition labels on the foods you have at home and diligently measure a single portion and remove it from the package. Once you have a single serving, compare that amount to the amount you normally consume. The differences may be significant.

By providing strong visual cues, you’re more likely to make better portion decisions when serving meals or dining out.

Here are some helpful strategies to control portion sizes:

  • Double check nutrition labels before making meals or consuming snacks. Remove a single serving from a larger package and put the rest away to support having only one serving at a time.
  • When dining at home, serve one portion and keep the leftovers on the stove, or store them immediately to make having second helpings less likely.
  • When eating out, consider ordering the lunch portion, sharing a dinner or ordering off of the appetizer menu to avoid consuming too much in one sitting.
  • Avoid eating while doing any other activity, like watching a movie or sitting at your desk. Savor the experience of eating by only consuming food when you’re aware of how much you’re eating.

Understanding portion sizes can help you make informed choices during your medical weight loss program, as well as help you with meal planning for long-term weight management.

Nutrition labels will inform you how many calories each serving contains, but unless you’re careful with your measurements, you may inadvertently eat more than a single serving. It is especially easy to eat oversized portions while dining out. Learning how to measure portion sizes and limit yourself to a single serving can help you maintain your weight loss goals.

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