Let's face it: Sometimes it's how much, not what, you eat that causes you to blame the dry cleaner for shrinking your clothing. So often clients come to me frustrated and puzzled about why their pounds aren't pouring off, even though they've slashed carbs and ditched fats. What they don't realize is that even healthy foods have calories. A piece of fish the size of your plate and a mountain of edamame is not going to lead to that svelte silhouette. Keeping an eye on portion sizes and eating with your stomach instead of your eyes, mouth, or wallet is a surefire way to help you get where you want to go.
Here are five important tips that will help keep you from tipping the scale:
1. Don't use body parts. A 6-foot-4-inch male construction worker's palm is a very different size than a 5-foot female ballerina's. To assess how much protein, like meat, fish or poultry, is on your plate, use a deck of cards as a guide. One deck is equivalent to about 3 ounces. A tennis ball is about the size of one cup of pasta, and a golf ball is equivalent in size to about 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
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2. Become a bagger. You can save hundreds of calories by using individual sandwich and snack bags. We've all played that game of pouring cereal from a big box, adding some milk, and then adding some more when the cereal is gone, along with some more milk to top it off. By pre-measuring a cup of cold cereal, and placing it in single-serving-sized bags, you'll define and predetermine an amount that will help keep calories in check. This is a great method for defining pretzels, crackers, chips, and other snack foods.
3. S-L-O-W down. Think of this as eating with low lights and soft music. Perhaps even close your eyes while you eat to get the strongest impact of flavor from the food in your mouth. By eating at a slower pace and paying attention to the taste, temperature, and texture of the food in your mouth, you can get more enjoyment out of what you're eating, and you'll wind up eating less. Try putting your fork down between bites and chew your food well.
4. Ask for an extra plate. Unless the restaurant is very exclusive and expensive, there's a good chance that the portions you'll be served will be bigger than you need. 'Value' is often associated with excess, yet if you value your health, less may be more.
5. Be generous and share. Try ordering your own soup or salad and split a main dish with someone. Finish your meal with a frothy cappuccino or skim latte, and if you'd like a sweet at the end of the meal, add a half or whole packet of brown sugar to this beverage. (A packet of sugar is only 16 calories.) Don't be afraid of not having enough to eat; if you need more food, unless the restaurant is closing for the night, you can always order something else.
Bottom line: It's better to have less of something delicious than not to have it at all. And remember that if you don't watch your portion sizes, you may not fit into your favorite sizes.
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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.