Portion Proportions, or...How portions Can Be Deceiving

Portions count when trying to maintain a healthy diet. We all want to feel full after eating, but not too full, I hope. If you get too full, your stomach stretches. Then, the next thing you know, you’re more to stay full and gaining weight.

It’s a common assumption that you can eat plentiful portions of fruit. On a whole that’s true because fruit is nature’s dessert. Fruit is full of vitamins and add lots of color to the way our food looks and tastes. Eat as many blackberries, raspberries and strawberries as you like. Limit your portions of higher sugar fruits like apples, mangos, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew and bananas. The sugar comes with calories and carbohydrates that can wreck your diet if you aren’t careful.

Eat as Little as Possible.

We love these foods because they taste so good. They can also be dangerous for our long-term health. These are the foods that most fast-food places thrive on like burgers, shakes and fries. Others include: all fried foods, pizza, and foods covered in cream sauces. Avoid fatty cuts of meat of meat like rib eyes, pork sausage, salamis, and sugar roasted ham. Limit on full-fat dairy and sugar-loaded desserts.

Size Matters.

If you’re a 6 foot 5 man, you’ll eat far more that a 5 foot 3 woman. Your portions should be relative to your healthy weight size. If you have a weight problem, eat the amount of food you would eat if you were at your optimal weight or decrease how much you eat until you reach your ideal weight.

Preparation Matters.

If you take vegetables and deep fry them, they lose their “all you can eat” value. Watch out for all breaded and fried foods because the preparation ruins their nutrition. The preparation drops them into the “eat as little as possible” category. The best way to consume vegetables in this order is: raw, steamed, baked, grilled and sautéed. The best way to consume legumes is steamed or boiled. Eat meat baked, grilled or pan sautéed.

Diet Matters.

Your kind of diet and lifestyle plays a factor in how much you should eat of different categories of food. If you are on a low fat diet, you should eat fat free dairy, very raw or steamed vegetables, and lean cuts of meat prepared with a light cooking spray. Low fat dieters can eat more carbohydrates than low calorie or low carb dieters.

If you’re a low carbohydrate dieter, you get to eat more high-fat and protein foods like fatty steaks and sausages, eggs and full fat dairy, while avoiding all breads, pasta, legumes, and fruit. Low carb diets are ideal for someone required to sit a lot of the work day. This diet has been made famous through the Atkins diet.

If you’re a low calorie dieter, blend the low fat and low carb diets to stay on track. Filling your calorie limit with high carbohydrate foods will defeat the purpose of your dieting. If you have high cholesterol, don’t eat these foods at all. If you are on a high fat diet, they do exist, watch how much of these foods you eat and monitor your cholesterol.

While what you eat matters, portion sizes do too. Since not all foods are equal, the portions you eat make a big difference. There are some foods you can eat in plentiful portions. There are others you can eat in moderate portions, and there are the tasty, unhealthy foods you should avoid or eat as little of as possible.

Eat in Moderation.

Eat foods higher in carbohydrates in smaller portions with less frequency.  That includes all grains, rice, white and wheat flour-based pasta, breads, tortillas and pita chips.

Legumes are a category of food you wouldn’t guess require you to watch your portion sizes. They are healthy, but they’re also high in carbohydrates. These are all beans like black beans, fava beans, lima beans, lentils, and peas. Vegetarians eat tons of legumes because they are filling and a great source of carbs and protein. For example, one cup of legumes has much more protein and is more filling than one cup of pasta.

Some vegetables are in this category including all forms of potatoes. Yes, that means be cautious when eating Russet, Yukon Gold, New, Sweet and even fancy Fingerling potatoes. They’re delicious and can be prepared in so many ways, but they’re also high in complex carbohydrates, which means it takes cardio work outs to burn them off, so eat them in moderate portion sizes. When it comes to vegetables, steer clear of large portions of beets, corn, plantains and butternut squash because they have much higher concentrates of carbohydrates.

Eat fish, lean meats like white meat chicken and turkey, pork tenderloin, a beef tenderloin in moderation, and prepare it grilled, baked or pan sautéed, never fried. Preparation makes a big difference. If you fry food, the quality drops to the “eat as little as possible” category. I’d say eat as much as you like of these, but it’s possible to eat too much of a good thing. Don’t order a 12-ounce steak, but if you do, split it with someone and eat more veggies.

Eat fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese in moderate portion sizes.

All You Can Eat!

Eat bigger portions of filling, nutritious foods like of raw, steamed, grilled or baked vegetables. That includes tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, celery, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchinis, radishes, and mushrooms. If you’re not excited about the flavor of any of these, add all the delicious spices you like including oregano, basil, cilantro, rosemary and pepper. Be sure to use salt within your health guidelines.

Leave the potatoes out.

Tips and Tricks.

A good trick to all of these things is to only keep the good choices in the house. If you don’t have them, you can’t eat them. When you make your food list before going to the store, don’t include the food you shouldn’t buy, avoid impulse buys, and don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

Eat on a smaller plate. When you fill a smaller plate, you feel like it’s full just because there’s less empty space. You can trick yourself into believing there’s more food there.

Graze. Eat small portions throughout the day. It helps stabilize your metabolism and keeps your eating in control when you go out to a restaurant. Remember, it’s okay to take left overs home when you eat out, and it isn’t necessary to be in the “clean-plate club” every time you eat.

Use an online diet tracker. There are great apps and sites that you can use online that sync with your phone to help you stay on target.

Finally, Eat with a smaller fork or spoon. You put less food in your mouth per bite which forces you to SLOW DOWN. There are not benefits to inhaling your food. In fact, the opposite is true. Put your fork or spoon down between each bite and allow yourself to enjoy the flavors of the food.

If you pay attention to what and how much you’re eating, maintaining a healthy diet is easy. Make slow changes, and before long, your eating habits will change, and the choices you make will feel like instinct.

A Word for Parents.

Parents, we all know you can eat larger portions than children, so don’t give them the same size portions as you. I was in a frozen yogurt shop recently and saw a man giving his child a full cup of yogurt just like his. Sadly, the child was already overweight. He was setting up his kid for poor diet habits from an early age.

I encourage you to eat more of the “all you can eat” foods, less of the foods you should “eat in moderation” and as little as possible of the foods you should “eat as little as possible”. Make appropriate adjustments according to your diet. If your doctor has you on a special diet, follow that. These are some simple things to consider while eating out or stocking your pantry and fridge.

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