Let's face it—size does count! Especially when it comes to food.
Just because a restaurant serves you a steak the size of your plate doesn't mean you actually need that much to keep you content. You might be surprised to find that you'd feel just as satisfied if a third of that steak were cut into bite-size pieces and tossed with colorful veggies.
Students who were given a bagel cut up into pieces reported feeling more full than those who were given the same-size bagel whole, according to a recent study by researchers at Arizona State University. It seems that cutting food into small pieces can trick your stomach into thinking you're actually eating a larger portion size. Cutting up your food helps you remember to eat more slowly and recognize the sensation of satiation, which in turn helps you eat less. Other studies have found that chewing food for a longer period of time can help conquer portion distortion.
To help you feel satisfied in both mind and mouth while still eating the foods you love, here are a few simple tips:
• Cut up chicken or meat into bite-size pieces. Toss them in a stir-fry with bright yellow peppers, crunchy carrots, and sweet snap peas or grill them on a kebab with eggplant, mushrooms, and onions. Serve with brown rice for a delicious, nutrient-dense meal.
• When putting together a summer salad, try throwing in a handful of heart-healthy slivered or sliced almonds instead of whole almonds. Aesthetically, the nuts will be dispersed throughout the salad, making it seem like you're getting more, while eating less.
• If your omelets are usually chock-full of cheese, try using shredded instead of sliced to cut back on calories without compromising taste. Better yet, instead of adding cheese to an omelet (which adds a protein food to a food that's already made of protein), try stuffing your omelet with a medley of chopped veggies like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini with perhaps a sprinkle of shredded cheese on top.
• People tend to eat their salad dressing with a little bit of lettuce and veggies instead of the other way around, unaware that the dressing could weigh in at more calories than the salad itself. You won't even notice if you dilute your favorite salad dressings by adding balsamic vinegar, some mustard, lemon juice, or horseradish sauce.
• If you're an olive lover and you want to keep sodium and calories in check, try slicing three olives of your choice into slivers and tossing them into your salad instead of using whole olives. Your blood pressure will thank you later.
To feel more satisfied and take in less calories, consider that solids may feel more satisfying than liquids, such as eating yogurt in a cup with a spoon versus drinking a yogurt shake. Also make an effort to chew your food for a longer period of time and savor the taste, temperature, and texture of what you're eating instead of just swallowing big bites.
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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.