If you’ve dined at a restaurant or visited a convenience store lately, you have probably noticed portions sizes have gotten much larger. Bags of chips, sodas and foods like steak and baked potatoes have all been subjected to the “super-sized” culture of eating in America. Some meals are now offered in large or extra-large sizes while other foods are made larger like a muffin or bagel, for example.
Many of these foods provide enough to share between two people. Unfortunately we have become accustomed to consuming large portions and would feel slighted if we were served a true portion size at a restaurant.
With the growth in food comes the growth in our waistlines.
For example, if you purchased a muffin at a bakery and asked for the correct portion size, you should receive a muffin the size of one large egg. I can only imagine the look on your face leaving the bakery. This could be classified as a case of “portion distortion.”
Portion control could arguably be one of the top contributors to weight gain or difficulty in weight management. Many of us know how to eat healthy but we end up eating too much. The key to weight management is the energy you take in versus the energy you use, according to the Northeast Georgia Area Agency on Aging. Calories are the energy in the food you eat. If you are taking in more calories that we burn off, you will eventually gain weight.
So how can we change our thinking and train ourselves to eat correct portions? Well, you happen to have a built-in measuring tool on the end of your arm: your palm.
The palm size of the average woman’s hand is equal to about 1/2 cup or 4 ounces. You can use your palm to measure 1/2 cup of vegetables or cut fruit, rice or cooked cereal. An accurate portion of meat, fish or poultry should equal between 3 and 4 ounces.
If you are a male with a larger hand, visualize a deck of playing cards to help portion control.
In fact, there are many household objects that can help guide food measurements. A tortilla should equal the size of a salad plate, a baked potato the size of a computer mouse, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter equal to the size of a golf ball and a baseball helps to measure one cup of food.
It is wise to begin your portion control journey by using measuring cups and measuring spoons in order to get an accurate measurement. After practicing for two or three weeks, you may only need to carefully measure when you are trying new foods. Consider involving children or grandchildren when measuring portions. This will help their math skills as well as teach them about portion control.
Eventually, correct portions will become second nature. You may be surprised by how satisfied you are with these small amounts.
Visit choosemyplate.gov or extension.uga.edu for more tips on portion control and tracking your eating habits.
Carin Booth is the family and consumer sciences agent at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in Hall County.