What’s the better choice for a healthier snack: a big bowl of frozen yogurt or a small chocolate chip cookie? If you guessed the cookie, you’re right—but most people guess the frozen yogurt. In one recent survey, 62% of people said that the kind of food you eat matters more than how much you eat when you’re trying to lose weight. But new research on portion control says that’s wrong. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who shrank their portions by 25% slashed 250 calories a day—enough to help them lose a half-pound a week— that’s 5 pounds in 10 weeks! And they still felt full.
Super-sized fast food meals, plate crowding entrees, and quart-plus sized fountain drinks are common examples of the increase in portion sizes for food served both inside and outside the home over the past two decades. It is probably not a coincidence that rates of over-weight and obesity among American adults and children have also increased profoundly over the past twenty years. While researchers are hesitant to blame portion size exclusively for obesity increases, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that portion size does influence how much we eat. People served large portions generally do not respond to fullness cues from their bodies and tend to eat more calories than those served smaller portions.
In addition to eating smaller portions, use the following pointers to practice good eating habits:
Trim your trigger foods.
Most people typically overeat two or three favorite foods—usually pastas, breads, meats, snacks, or sweets. Get to know recommended serving sizes for your favorites, and stick to them as closely as you can. Start slowly. Eat a few spoonsful less of rice and pasta, or go with half a sandwich instead of a whole.
See less, eat less.
Studies show that we eat whatever portion is on our plate. So the trick is to avoid seeing more food than you want to eat. Immediately put away food after serving yourself the right-size portions.
Shrink your plate.
Plates today are much larger than they were 20 years ago. Try eating dinner on smaller side plates; you’ll have less to eat.
Give your brain time.
It can take as much as 20 to 30 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it is satisfied and no longer hungry. Before taking seconds give this time to register.
Using the USDA MyPlate method http://www.choosemyplate.gov / is a good way to control serving sizes and improve nutrition at meals.
Author: Polly Loy, Ohio State University Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator.
Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Ohio State University Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, http://ross.osu.edu.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/.