Being able to enjoy food is a luxurious part of the human experience.  Our downfall is often overindulging.  Having a caloric plan and understanding each food item’s serving size is important.  Registered dietitian Dianna Thomas shares it’s ok to enjoy beloved food as long as it’s one portion and not an entire bowl or bag of something.  Fitting in portion-controlled treats and tracking them will help keep within daily calorie/nutrition goals. 

Universally, in America, we’re consuming way more than we should, in part because we routinely measure with our eyes.  Manufacturers know this and they make glasses, plates, bowls, and even silverware bigger to make us think that we need to eat and drink more. Rarely do we correctly guess actual calories and portion size due to the shapes and sizes of service ware, and the best defense is measuring cups, measuring spoons and kitchen scales.

One exercise we recommend is to measure your service pieces at home.  Our grandparents’ bowls would hold about a cup and, on average, today’s cereal bowls hold three cups or more.  Cereal manufacturers recommend a serving size anywhere between ½ cup to ¾ cup, yet we tend to pour until the bowl is half or more full.  The math is not working in our waist’s favor.  Getting rid of excessively large bowls, plates and glasses and replacing them with reasonably-sized pieces can help better control portion sizes.  Our eyes will know that we ate a full plate or enjoyed a full bowl.

Emotionally, for many of us who were raised to “clean our plates” and have difficulty breaking this habit, it is easier to control the caloric intake with smaller plates and bowls.

Another tip is to weigh everything.  Measuring cups are great but weighing items can often be more accurate. This is especially helpful for homemade items, such as muffins, that are subjective during their making. We’ve all made recipes where we didn’t reach the expected yield and those calories get divvied into the final count. Reading recipes per gram calorie count and weighing food to calculate the calories is easiest.  Sometimes cutting a muffin in half might be necessary to reach the original recipe’s serving size.

One trick to making portion control a part of every day living is to mark dishes or glasses with the correct portion.  Using a permanent marker on a reusable plastic bottles or bowls can help with meal planning and meals-on-the-go.   This helps to take the guess work out and removes the excuse that measuring cups aren’t available or that there isn’t enough time to assemble something at home.

Having to measure will become second nature but it is good to double-check manufacturers’ portion sizes and measurements to ensure skills remain on point and unwanted calories aren’t sneaking back in to cause unwanted weight gain.