One of the most important factors in losing weight or managing a healthy lifestyle is portion control and measuring out meals.
Portion control is also crucial for those with medical issues, diabetes for example, or an irritant to ingredients like gluten or dairy.
The first step is to purchase a digital kitchen food scale and measuring cups or spoons. A common error in food measuring is eating from the package the food came in, or filling up a bowl or plate until there is no more room. This is how overeating starts. Once you get accustomed to that serving size, your stomach will expect that amount each time and only grow. If you limit the serving size to what the Nutrition Fact Label recommends, then you'll feel full and won't overeat.
I shake my head at my boyfriend when he wakes up, skips breakfast, then comes home from work at night to consume an entire bag of raviolis and maybe a few snacks. He's not overweight because he exercises and balances out his carbohydrate consumption, but with his routine, his body never knows when it's going to get fuel, let alone proper nutrition.
Common wisdom says to eat three times a day, but to me, that means three large meals that can lead to overconsumption. Five small meals makes more sense, eaten every three hours. Make plastic containers your best friend if you plan to meal prep and properly measure out dishes. A rule of thumb for protein or animal meat measurement is about four ounces. To use a scale, put a plate on it, then zero it out and add the food. Add or subtract items until you get the right amount. For salad dressing, peanut butter, flaxseed or chia seeds, for example, I stick to one or two tablespoons. Don't go pouring an open bottle over your salad and get mad that it's too vinegary. You neglected to read the serving size.
Cereal is a big one people misjudge. Don't fill up the entire bowl, measure out a ¾ cup. It's also good to not assume all measurements are even, such as a cup or half cup. There's sizes in between. I don't usually go crazy with measuring fruits or vegetables, but with that I try to stick to half cups, same with rice and beans. Health.com suggests eyeing three ounces of meat to be equivalent with a deck of cards.
Be conscious of portions when eating out. Restaurant sizes are double and triple the norm, especially pasta dishes. Skip the bread and get a salad for an appetizer, and almost always plan to take leftovers home, unless of course it's your cheat day and you've been waiting to 'mangia' all week. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a nifty serving size card that can be print out and kept in a wallet or pocket for when measuring can be tricky. It highlights grains, veggies and fruit, dairy and cheese and meats.
This isn't to say you should restrict yourself with a diet and get consumed by numbers, but after some practice, measuring becomes second nature. The goal is to not overeat and gain weight. That doesn't mean you have to eat all healthy food measured properly. I've mentioned before that food is neither good or bad. If you eat clean all day, treat yourself to a cup of ice cream with a pop tart and chocolate sauce. You've been waiting for it all day and worked for it. If it fits in your allotment of calories or macronutrients for the day, then let it be.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.