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Size Matters

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Portion control is an important
factor in any diet

It’s a new year and many of us are ready
to embark on a new exercise routine and
diet plan to shed those extra holiday
pounds. If you want to get serious about
weight loss, it’s time to get serious about
portion control. Many of us suffer
from portion distortion, or simply
overeating because good food is on our
plate. Realizing the appropriate portion
sizes can be shocking. Whether you’re
accustomed to getting seconds at home
or you eat out frequently and many
side dishes (think pasta, rice, fries—an
inexpensive way to fill up your plate) are
overserved, simply stopping when you’ve
had the right amount of food will slash
fat and calories.

Take a simple challenge for a while:
Measure your food after it’s cooked. A
meat scale and a few measuring cups
are all you will need. If you want to be
more technical, there are food scales on the market that will give you a
breakdown of calories, fat, protein, fiber, etc. These are available at many
stores like Target or Walmart.

So what exactly is an appropriate portion?
Protein: For women, 1 to 2 ounces (or servings) with breakfast and
snacks (about 7 to 14 grams of protein), and 3 to 4 ounces with lunch and
dinner (imagine a deck of cards). For men, 2 to 3 ounces with breakfast
and snacks, 5 to 6 ounces with lunch and dinner. Keep in mind, these
guidelines are very broad and may differ depending on your particular
frame, height, weight and activity level. For example, a taller woman who
works out several times per week may need to consume portions closer to
that of a man.

How much protein do foods contain? Some examples: 3 ounces of meat
contains about 20 grams of protein, one egg contains 7 grams and a Greek
yogurt contains about 15 to 18 grams.

Carbohydrates: Most of us get the majority of carbohydrates from
starches. While I am not promoting low-carb diets, carbs are where many of
us overdo it. Carbs tend to be more readily available, and they are easy to
overeat (think chips, crackers, cookies). Also portions of carbohydrates in
restaurants are generally larger than their protein and vegetable servings.
Examples of one serving of carbohydrates includes one slice of bread; one
half cup of pasta/rice/potatoes; 4 ounces of juice or a small serving of fruit
(think a tennis ball–size apple); one cup of milk. One serving contains
about 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates.

Appropriate portions of carbohydrates for women are one to two servings
with breakfast, lunch and snacks. Men should consume about two
servings with each of those meals. Like protein needs, carbohydrate needs increase with activity level. If weight loss is your goal, limit or avoid starchy
carbohydrates at dinner.

To put this into perspective, a six-inch Subway sandwich is equivalent
to about three slices of bread; a coffee shop bagel is about five slices of
bread; a pasta portion in a restaurant is usually about twice the amount we
should be eating (split it with someone or bring half home); a large apple is
about 200 calories (buy in bulk and they are usually a lot smaller than the
individual ones); a large bowl of cereal can creep up to about 600 calories
as opposed to a one- to two-cup serving at about 200 calories. You can see
how we may be overdoing the carbs.

Fat: Both men and women should have about one to two servings
of fat with each meal or snack. Focus on heart-healthy, unsaturated
fat when possible. An appropriate serving of fat is about one
tablespoon of olive oil, mayo, margarine or salad dressing; 15 to
20 almonds (or any variety of nuts); one-fourth of an avocado,
one tablespoon of nut butter. Fat is necessary in our diets for
many reasons. It helps keep you full while sustaining energy
levels; heart-healthy fats help lower bad cholesterol levels;
and fat is important for hormone production and brain
health.

Measuring portions gives us the ability to eyeball
what we should be consuming. This is a necessary
beginning to kick-start any new weight-loss
program. A quote from my husband, who
struggles not to overeat: “If you don’t have the
willpower not to eat it, don’t put it on your plate.”