With summer nearing its close, many of us begin looking back at our New Year’s resolutions. We think maybe if we’d just gotten to the gym one more day a week (or month), we could have fit into those pants we’ve been saving for when we drop those extra few pounds. We try to eat right and exercise, as we should, but one thing we don’t always consider—but should—is portion control.
Sure, those 100 calorie packs of various snack foods are fun, and what’s 100 calories? Well, consider this: consuming an extra 100 calories daily for a year, without using them up through extra physical activity, can lead to a weight gain of 10 pounds. What does this mean for the individual?
• Many women and older adults should limit calorie consumption to about 1,600 calories per day.
• Children, teen girls, active women and most men need to consume 2,200 calories.
• Teen boys and active men need about 2,800 calories daily.
For readers who are counting today's calories, consider a typical meal of a half-pound cheeseburger, French fries, a tomato slice, and three-quarters of a cup of ketchup. Sounds good, but just that one meal can add up to roughly 1,345 calories.
Scaling back to a regular portion by cutting everything in half is 685 calories—still quite a bit, but much more reasonable. It’s important to consider what you drink, too. Many Americans drink soda every day. A 24 ounce bottle may look normal, but for regular soda, that’s 310 calories. Stick to an actual serving size of 12 ounces, and you’ll consume 155 calories instead.
Measuring vs. Estimating
The most foolproof way to be sure you are consuming the correct portion is to measure or weigh your food. That takes time and diligence, and may not be convenient if you are eating out. But you can use these easy comparisons to eyeball an appropriate portion size:
- A single serving of meat is generally 3 ounces. Visually, this looks about the size of your palm or a deck of cards.
- A serving of vegetables, usually 1 cup, is the size of a baseball, while fresh fruit, like an apple or orange, is smaller – closer to a tennis ball.
- A bagel or roll should look the size of a 6 ounce can of tuna.
- A serving of spaghetti or cereal is about the size of your fist.
- For fats, sugars and salad dressings, 1 teaspoon is about the size of your thumb while a tablespoon is about the size of a ping pong ball.
Here’s another way to go about it: When filling your dinner plate, vegetables and fruit should take up half of the space, with meat and starch each taking a quarter.
Cut It in Half!
Most everything we consume today is twice the serving we need, so an even easier way to control your portion size is to eat only half, especially in restaurants, where portion sizes are often more than double.
And at home, when you look at the nutrition information on a package of food or beverage and see the words “240 calories per serving,” don’t forget to look further to see whether there are two servings in the package. When in doubt, cut it in half.
How Much, Not What
When you’re planning out your meals and watching your caloric intake as part of renewing your New Year’s resolution (to amp up for next year’s resolution, of course), also keep in mind that with each decade as we age, we need 100 fewer calories per day. That being said, enjoy the late-summer barbecues and treat yourself once in a while. But don’t forget when you’re watching what you eat, sometimes it’s not what you eat, but rather how much.