As March is National Nutrition Month, we are reminded how vital a role our food choices and eating habits play in every area of health. For any health conditions, healthy weight and long-term healthy living, an educated diet is one of the key components along with regular exercise and effective medication. You know best what your food restrictions are according to your health conditions, allergies, or your doctor’s suggestions. Eating clean is a good baseline for anyone to start, but in this article we will focus on one aspect to improve the benefits you can achieve from your diet: portion control.
It’s a lot of work to shop for and prepare healthy meals, and you want to be sure to eat the right quantities for your age, gender, height and weight. Eating too much of that nutritious quinoa salad can still be detrimental if it means you are consuming too many calories. Once you know the healthy BMI you are aiming for, the general number of daily calories you want to use as a gauge, and what foods are best for your specific needs, you can use portioning as a tool to keep to your numbers.
General Portion Guidelines
The USDA recommends the following general plate portioning:
1/2 plate should be vegetables and fruit (3-4 servings/day).
1/4 plate should be protein (3-6 servings/day).
1/4 plate should be whole grains (6 servings/day).
Up to 2 servings of fats and oils/day.
Optionally, 2 servings of dairy if deemed beneficial for you.
Keep in mind serving sizes, like daily calories, depend on your gender, size, weight, and level of activity. This is to give you a rough idea, but always check with your doctor if you are unsure.
Portion Control Tips
There are many practical things you can do to eat smaller portions. Eating habits are personal, so it will take a bit of experimentation to find out what will work for you. Here are a few ideas to begin with:
Use smaller plates, larger water glasses, and store leftovers in individual-sized portion bags or Tupperware containers. This way, leftovers are already portioned for future meals or snacks.
Slow down. When you’re hungry, you may eat more than you should. Have a full glass of water before you start eating, and be sure to chew slowly, continue to sip water through the meal and put your cutlery down between bites.
Put snacks in small bowls or plates instead of eating out of the bag or box. Decide before you start snacking how much you’ll have, so that you won’t accidentally finish the bag of chips along with the end of the movie.
Learn the basics of what a serving of fruits, veggies, grains, and protein looks like. Translate it into your most frequent meals as a start. Jot down reminders of things like how to convert solid to liquid ounces in your phone or on the fridge for quick reference.
Finally, be patient with yourself and know that it will take time to learn how to portion meals properly for your needs and goals. This is normal and okay. Keep at it!