One of the best ways to lose or maintain weight is to get a handle on your portions. We all know North American portions are grossly out of control. Eating normal-sized meals (and being satisfied with them!) is one of the secrets of the French Paradox, and one of the reasons why a lot of women throughout the world (Europe in particular) are able to enjoy the wonderful food they do yet stay slim.
But you don’t have to be European to master this skill. It takes a little effort, at first, because unfortunately we’ve all grown accustomed to our massive bowls of pasta and steaks the size of Frisbees. Here are some tricks to painlessly downsize those portions:
Most of us eat until our plates are clean. So an easy way to eat less? Use smaller plates. Filling up a smaller plate (10-inches instead of 12- or 14-inch plate) will do a Jedi mind trick on your brain. You won’t feel sorry for yourself with a pathetic-looking portion in the center of a big plate. Studies back this up: when researchers gave study participants 34- or 17-ounce bowls and told them to help themselves to ice cream, those with the bigger bowls doled out 31 percent more ice cream.
Do not get seduced by the siren call of buffets. Obviously, buffets are a big enemy of portion control. One problem: you want to “get your money’s worth” at a buffet and so you keep helping yourself to more and more…and more. If you can’t avoid going to a buffet, try to order from the a la carte menu instead of exercising the buffet option. If you can’t do that, try to go up to the buffet only once. I know, it sounds crazy. It may feel like you’re “wasting” money, but think about how much you’re saving in the long run…heart meds are expensive, after all.
The Japanese have a practice known as hara hachi bu, which means eating until you feel about 80 percent full. At that point, your stomach is probably 100 percent full. Your brain just doesn't realize it yet. And the Japanese? Way healthier than us.
"Cut" your plate in half. One-half gets filled with vegetables and/or fruit. The other half is for equal parts carbs and protein (eg. only half a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, the other half is a salad!).
The unfortunate fact is, when you're eating with others you're likely to wolf down more food. You'll eat about 35 percent more when you dine with one friend versus alone. With a group of seven? You'll eat 96 percent more. But just to be clear: there's no way I'm going to discourage an evening out with friends. Too important for a healthy, happy life, in my book. Instead, what I'm recommending is to be aware of this tendency. Pay close attention to what you're ordering, what you're sharing, and how many servings you're taking.
Plate your food in the kitchen, and leave the casserole dish behind. Why? If you bring dishes of food to the table, you're more likely to help yourself to seconds (and thirds, and fourths...). So unless those platters are only filled with veggies and salad...leave them out of reach.
Now, your turn: any portion-control tricks and tips to share? What works for you?