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Archive for the ‘ Portion control ’ Category

Avoid these portion pitfalls which can derail your diet

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Avoid these 5 portion pitfalls which can derail your diet.” 

You can also read it here. 

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a portion size advocate, I believe all foods can fit into a healthy diet. However, while you can enjoy larger portions of certain foods (fruits and vegetables), you should pay attention to how big your portions are for others foods (breads, baked goods, red meat, candy and chips).

No one I know got fat from eating too many berries, apples, or carrots. Therefore, when I work with clients, I encourage them to enjoy generous portions of produce. However, we need to be more mindful of how much we eat of other foods, especially treats and sweets. It often takes retraining your brain, paying close attention to how much food really constitutes a health portion size, and developing healthy habits to avoid eating too much.

Being conscious of the following food traps is half the battle. Avoid these portion pitfalls to prevent you from overeating.

1. You buy oversize bags of chips in search of a bargain.

We all love a good bargain! After all, it is hard to resist buying the oversize bag of chips when it only costs just a quarter or so more than the smaller bag. However, while it’s great to stock up on jumbo rolls of toilet paper, the same cannot be said about food, especially junk food. Keeping your health—and your weight—in check is a top priority and the best bargain you can find!

My suggestion: Avoiding buying jumbo bags of food unless you take the time to portion out the contents into individual servings in small plastic baggies or containers.

2. You eat straight from the tub.

One of the easiest ways to overeat is to eat straight from the package. Whether it’s a tub of ice cream, a half-gallon of juice, or a bag of chips, it is very difficult to portion control your food when you eat straight from the package. And leaving it up to willpower rarely works.

My suggestion: Portion out a reasonable serving size, pour it onto a plate, savor it, and enjoy. And do eat sitting down.

3. You pour instead of dip.

One of the reasons so many of us eat more calories than we think is that we order a healthy salad but then we pour on tons of dressing. While salad greens and veggies won’t break you in the bank, salad dressing calories add up very quickly. One tablespoon of olive oil contains around 120 calories, and many salads—even appetizer sized!—contain several tablespoons worth.

My suggestion: Dip your fork into a side dish of dressing instead of pouring it all on your favorite salad. You can always add more if you need.

4. You pay no attention to serving sizes on food labels.

While food labels will be getting a makeover and many serving sizes of our favorite foods are set to increase, most people look at the calories listed but pay little attention to the serving size and the number of servings per container.

While one serving of your favorite treat may contain only 100 calories, if you eat several serving’s worth, your calorie count will much higher than just 100 calories. Yet so many of us would still say that they have only eaten 100 calories or so. I often see this pattern with many highly educated clients that I’ve counseled. Especially since many snacks that look like single servings actually contain two to three servings. Many muffins, for example contain two servings, but who eats just ½ a muffin? It’s easy to be fooled!

My suggestion: Pay attention to food label serving sizes along with the number of servings per container. I also suggest getting a measuring cup and food scale and from time to time weighing your typical portion to see how many servings are really on your plate.

5. You serve food family style.

The best way to serve food whenever possible is to plate it in the kitchen. Placing large platters of food directly on the dinner table and serving food family-style is one of the easiest ways to end up eating lots more than you really need. And the larger the serving platter and serving utensil, the more food we are likely to take.

My suggestion: Plate out a reasonable size portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can always go back for more.

For additional portion-size tips and tricks, click here and here.

We would love to hear portion tips that have worked well for you.

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Portion control made easy for summer

Below is my blog for Huffington Post “Portion control made easy for summer.”

You can also read it here.

wine glasses

Summer is here and it’s a perfect time to manage our food portions to help keep our calories under control and our weight in check. As a nutritionist, I am huge fan of portion control and believe that how much we eat is more important than what we eat when it comes to managing our weight.

Below I highlight some of the most recent research findings on portion control to keep you from eating too much this summer.

1. Try a reduced-portion entrée next time you eat out.

Large portion sizes especially in restaurants and take-out eating establishment have helped fuel the obesity epidemic. Large portions contain more calories than smaller ones and may encourage people to eat more calories than they need.

The high calorie content of restaurant meals can also be attributed to the oversize portions we are served. In fact, it is not uncommon for a restaurant portion to often contain over 1000 calories, more than half of the calories many of us should eat for an entire day.

Because we eat more food when we are served more, strategies to help us reduce our portion may help us consume fewer calories and lose weight. A recent study published by University of Minnesota researchers in Public Health Nutrition found that when people selected a reduced-size entrée in a restaurant or work site setting, they consumed fewer calories and also wasted less food. This is certainly a winning combination!

Take home message: Whenever possible, order a reduced-portion entrée or make a meal out of an appetizer portion which is probably more than enough food.

2. Make a fist and use your hand as a portion guide.

For years, I’ve used the “handy method” to help clients assess their portion sizes. As I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan, using your hand is a great way to guesstimate how big your portion should be.

After all, when you go out to a restaurant you always have your hand. And, no one wants to go out to dinner and bring along measuring cups and a food scale.

Since so many of us overdo our starch portion (think rice, pasta, and potato), I advise clients and readers to make a fist to enjoy a healthy 1-cup portion instead of banning starch altogether. Want to include meat in your diet, without overdoing it? Think a palm’s worth. And, add lots of colorful veggies to your plate.

Now new research from University of Sydney found that using your hand to estimate your food portion is indeed, a good way to assess how much food is on your plate. The researchers found that finger width used as a ruler to help gauge the food dimensions combined with various geometric formulas of volume and food density factors resulted in an “acceptable accurate” estimate of food weight.

Take home message: While not an exact science and we all have different size hands, taking a look at your hand while you eat, may indeed help you gauge jut how big the portion on your plate should be.

3. Make a nice size smoothie, but keep it thick.

Summer is a time for milkshakes and smoothies. It is important, however, to watch the calories which tend to add up very quickly when you make it with ice cream and syrup. Now, a small yet interesting study conducted by Dutch researchers from Wageningen University found that to feel full, you don’t need a smoothie loaded with lots of calories. The solution, it seems, lies in the consistency of the shake.

Subjects given a frothy low-calorie (and just 100 calories!) milk shake that was thick felt more full than those given a thinner shake containing 500 hundred calories.

Take home message: The thicker and frothier the smoothie, the fuller you will feel. So next time you want a shake, make it with low fat Greek yogurt, lots of fresh fruit (including banana), and add plenty of ice. Not only will you get protein and fiber, but the thickness of this smoothie will keep you feeling full. A yummy summer treat! And, you don’t have to eat a tiny portion.

4. Pour your glass of wine into a smaller goblet.

Who doesn’t love an occasional glass of wine with dinner? The problem of course, is that the calories add up quickly when we use oversize goblets, which is the norm these days.

Researchers from University of Cambridge found that people drank more wine overall when the glass was bigger, even when the same amount was served per glass. A larger wine glass may change our perception of how much wine constitutes a portion, perhaps leading us to drink faster and to order more.

The researchers tracked consumers’ wine purchases from a restaurant over several months. The restaurant alternated between 8-ounce, 10-ounce and 12-ounce wine goblets. The researchers found that when the restaurant used the larger wine glass, they served approximately 10% more wine.

Take home message: Want a glass of wine without excessive calories? Pour it into a smaller goblet and you may end up drinking less.

Have a healthy summer and enjoy a perfect portion of your favorite food and drink.

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5 Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Meal Way Under 1,000 Calories

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “5 tips to keep your restaurant meal way under 1000 calories.”

You can also read it here.

pasta primavera

Americans love eating out. Unfortunately, most restaurant meals exceed calorie recommendations. It’s no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic in this country.

Chain restaurants in the U.S. are currently required to post calorie counts on their menus. Hopefully, this information will nudge us to make healthier choices and also encourage chains to re-formulate their menu items.

In the meantime, more than half of restaurants are not chains, and therefore, are exempt from calorie labeling.

So just how many calories do these meals contain?

To answer that question, researchers from Tufts University conducted a study on the calorie counts of non-chain restaurants between 2011-2014 in three metro areas (Boston, San Francisco, and Little Rock).

Here’s what they found. Most restaurant meals are super-sized and contain very high calorie counts, similar to those in chain restaurants. Nine out of 10 meals from non-chain restaurants exceeded calorie recommendations for a single meal. The average meal contained 1,200 calories (yikes!), which amounts to more than a half a day’s worth of calories. American, Italian, and Chinese cuisine fared the worst, with meals averaging 1,500 calories.

While we would expect some meals to be high in calories, such as tempura dishes (which are fried), the high calorie counts in other dishes such as chicken teriyaki may come as a bit of a shock to some people. The researchers found that even a Greek salad contained nearly 1,000 calories.

As a long time portion-size researcher, I am not at all surprised. Most meals at both chain and non-chain restaurants are much too big, and therefore, provide far too many calories.

The researchers wrote: “This study extends previous work and indicates that restaurants in general, rather than specific types of restaurants, can facilitate obesity by exposing patrons to portion sizes that induce overeating through established biological mechanisms that are largely outside conscious control.”

Indeed, it would be a great idea to cook at home more often. But if you do want to dine out, here are some simple tips to help you trim down the calories of your favorite meals.

1. Share, share, and share!

This is a great portion-control trick and will help you save calories. Share a main dish with your dinner companion and you will get half the number of calories. To avoid feeling deprived, start with a healthy salad or appetizer.

2. Order an appetizer as your main meal.

You may not want to eat the same thing as your dining companion, so sharing may not be possible. Many restaurants these days offer half portions or appetizer sizes which I promise you is enough food for one. If you are still hungry, you can always order more.

3. Order sauces on the side.

So often, it is the dressings and sauces that cause the calorie counts of your favorite meals to jump. Three simple words — “on the side” — can make a huge difference. Just one tablespoon of oil contains around 120 calories, and many salads contain at least 4 tablespoons of dressing! If you order sauces and dressings on the side, you do still get to enjoy the flavor while using less.

4. Wrap it up.

Leftovers make for a great accessory! Just because your favorite restaurant serves a super-size portion doesn’t mean you have to finish it. My research found that many pasta entrees, for example, contain 3-4 cups pasta! (No wonder people think carbs make us fat.) If you ate half that amount, and wrapped up the rest, you’d probably be satisfied (instead of super stuffed).

5. Order more veggie-based dishes.

In some cases, you can enjoy a big portion without breaking the calorie bank. Veggie based dishes are often the way to go. A generous portion of veggies goes a long way. Not only are veggies high in fiber which signals you to stop eating, but they are so low in calories, that as long as they do not contain too much sauce, you can certainly keep your dish way under 1,000 calories. For example, I’m not worried about the calories in a jumbo plate of spaghetti squash primavera.

I provide additional portion control tricks here.

And I offer smart swaps for your favorite restaurant cuisine here.

We would love to hear some of your favorite tricks to minimize the calories in restaurant portions.

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Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks.”

You can also read it HERE.

Courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

With the start of the New Year, losing a few pounds is often high on many people’s “to do” list. You may even be thinking of trying the latest fad diet, a version of the Paleo diet, or a juice cleanse.

Having spent the past 20 plus years counseling people trying to shed unwanted pounds, I know that losing weight is the easy part. Keeping if off and developing long-term healthy habits you can stick with is a far greater challenge.

If you have previously read my advice to dieters, you know that practicing portion-control is, in my opinion, by far one of the simplest and most effective ways to shed unwanted pounds for good. Ultimately, regardless of which method you try, in order to succeed at weight loss, you have to eat fewer calories.

Many fads work initially because you end up eating less, often because you omit entire food groups from your diet. By practicing portion control, however, you get to eat the foods you love (just not huge amounts every day) without cutting out certain food groups entirely. In my opinion, this is a much healthier and balanced approach. And, with a bit of planning, if you choose your foods wisely, you can often even eat more.

I’ve rounded up some portion-control tricks which can help you get 2016 off to a great start and help you shed unwanted pounds. Many of these tricks are rooted in behavior change which serve as cues to gently remind us to eat mindfully…to eat when hungry…to eat more slowly…and to eat less.

1. Go retro.

If we can return to eating smaller portions like we did several decades ago, we’d probably be a lot thinner. Back in the 1950s, portions were smaller and so were we. I’ve spent a good part of my career tracking how our food portions have grown — and how our waistlines have too. Rates of obesity increased as portions rose. This CDC graph, based on my research, illustrates this point. Large portions have more calories than small portions, so if we can trim our portions, we can cut out lots of calories which can help us to lose weight.

2. Eat a small breakfast.

I recommend that dieters eat within two hours of getting up. It doesn’t have to be a huge feast though. In fact, a smaller breakfast may actually be best. A study found that dieters who ate a small breakfast, as opposed to a large one, ended up eating less over the course of the day. Often, we think if we eat a big breakfast, we’ll eat less for lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

My takeaway message is: eat a light meal in the morning. If you are not much of a breakfast eater, no worries. Make it a brunch and ok to eat something small. I suggest you include protein and fiber, which help you feel full. Some of my favorites are a Greek yogurt and berries, a slice whole grain toast with a thin schmear of peanut butter, or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped walnuts or a little milk.

3. Cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces.

We tend to eat in units. Most of us don’t share a slice of pizza, a bagel, or a soda (or other foods which come in units) with a friend. Instead, we tend to eat the whole thing. An interesting study offers up this trick: cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces and you may end up eating fewer calories. In this particular study, when a pizza pie was cut into 16 slices — instead of the typical 8 slices — people ate less. I invite you try it.

4. Beware the health halos.

So often we get caught up with labels such as “low-fat,” “gluten free,” and “organic.” Many of us also think that if a food is good for us, we can eat as much as we want. This study found that people who thought alcohol was heart-healthy drank nearly 50% more alcohol than those who did not.

My suggestion for 2016: keep an eye on your portion size even if you think a food may be good for you. Low-fat cookies are still cookies and gluten-free crackers are still crackers. And both products do indeed contain calories which add up pretty quickly.

5. At times, you can eat more to weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and veggies which tend to be low in calories (while also being nutritious.) Good options include berries, melons, citrus fruit, leafy greens and, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy a large colorful salad. Just ask for the dressing on the side.

6. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup and “souping” seems to be a popular trend these days. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you can eat a large portion without too many calories. In fact, people who eat a large vegetable-based soup as an appetizer often end up eating fewer calories at the rest of the meal. My favorites — minestrone, tomato kale, lentil soup, and white bean. Several caveats: skip the cream soups and go easy on salt.

7. Take out the measuring cups once in a while.

It’s a great idea when you are eating at home to occasionally measure out your food to get an idea how much you typically eat. While it is not exactly practical to measure your food when you are eating out, and I don’t suggest you weigh your food daily, finding out just how big — or small — your portion is can be quite an eye opener. For example, I’ve had clients pour their typical ready-to-eat cereal into their oversized bowl and think they are having one serving, or around one cup. After measuring it out, they are shocked that their “healthy” cereal portion is closer to three cups. Yikes!

8. Take a look at your hand.

While you don’t always have measuring cups with you, you always have your hand. Which is why I created the “handy guide” to estimating your portion size. A 3 ounce portion of meat or chicken looks like the palm of your hand and a fist looks like 1 cup pasta or rice. This method is not an exact science, but does come in handy.

9. Downsize your food packages.

Considerable research has found that we eat more if our packages are larger. Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptation, I suggest buying single-serving packages or pre-portioning your favorite snacks and putting them into baggies which you can grab when you are hungry.

10. Slow down.

When we eat more slowly, we tend to eat more mindfully, and, in turn, eat less. One way to slow down is to count your bites. A small study found that study subjects who cut their daily bites by 20 percent lost around 3.5 pounds in a month. While counting your bites may not be the most pleasurable thing to do, especially if you are hoping to enjoy your food, paying attention to how many bites you are taking ultimately slows you down which leads to eating less. While I don’t suggest you count your bites regularly, it may be ok to try once in while.

11. Eat off of grandma’s dishes.

Food portions are not the only things that grew over the years — our plate sizes have too. And research has found that we eat more if plates or glasses are large. A solution: use grandma’s dishes. A client of mine did this and lost 20 pounds, effortlessly. If we downsize our plate, we tend to eat less. A small looks bigger on a smaller plate. I invite you to eat a salad of of a big plate and a pasta or meat dish off of a smaller plate. This study found that halving plate size led to a 30 percent reduction in amount of food consumed.

12. Commit to cooking more in 2016.

When we cook, we often make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity. These findings don’t surprise me. Restaurant portions tend to be larger than amounts we would typically prepare at home. Foods eaten out also tend to be more caloric than home cooked meals.

We would love to hear portion-control tips that have worked for you.

Here’s to a happy — and healthy — 2016!

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5 sensible tips to keep from becoming an obesity statistic

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “5 sensible tips to keep  from becoming an obesity statistic.”

You can also read it HERE.

We received bad news from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) about the current state of obesity in the United States (U.S.). Despite some improvements to our current food environment (soda consumption is down, food manufacturers are removing artificial ingredients), obesity is still on the rise. Compared to 2003 when just 32 percent of Americans were obese (defined as a body mass index greater than 30), the most recent data collected in 2014 reveals that 38 percent of the U.S. population is obese. These results come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NANES), the largest federal health and dietary intake survey conducted by CDC.

The report also reveals a drastic health inequality between genders and ethnicities. About 38 percent of adult women were obese from 2011 to 2014 as compared with 34 percent of men. And obesity rates were highest among black and Hispanic women.

Clearly, our food environment remains to be challenging for many of us. We are surrounded by temptations, food is available 24-7, portion sizes are too big, we eat out, we don’t cook enough, and junk food is cheap and heavily advertised. These, and other factors, help to explain why we eat too much. And, on top of that, many of us don’t get enough exercise.

While lots more needs to be down on a policy level — subsidizing fruits and vegetables, capping oversize portions, taxing soda and junk food, and limiting food marketing to children — there are lots of things YOU can do to keep from becoming an obesity statistic.

Here are five sensible tips to get you started.

1. Don’t go hungry.

Eat regular meals and snacks. (And keep them healthy, of course.) By eating at regular intervals, we tend not to get too hungry which helps us resist temptations. As a practicing nutritionist, I advise my clients to pack healthy snacks such as an apple and a small bag of nuts or baby carrots and a single-serve hummus to keep hunger at bay.

2. Rightsize your portions.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity. Large portions contain more calories than small portions and the more we are served, the more we eat! Practicing portion control is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps you can take to help you lose weight. Wrapping up leftovers, purchasing smaller sized snacks, and eating off of smaller plates are a few simple things you can do.

3. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

I like the advice of the U.S. Department of Health’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov which suggests that we fill up half of our plate with fruits and veggies. Not only are fruits and veggies healthy and low in calories, when we fill up on them, we tend to eat less of other less nutritious foods. I always suggest having a colorful plate!

4. Create a healthy kitchen environment.

Keeping a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, making junk food invisible, and putting that box of cereal in the cupboard are a few things you can do to keep your kitchen healthier.Decluttering your kitchen counter and keeping healthy foods handy may even help to prevent weight gain.

5. Cook more.

When we cook more, we tend to make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking meals at home was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity.

We would love to hear healthy tips that have worked for you.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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5 Kitchen Tweaks That Could Lead to a Slimmer Waist

Here is my latest post for Huffington Post: “5 kitchen tweaks that could lead to a slimmer waist.”

You can also read it HERE.

“If you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do,” says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design.

Dr. Wansink and colleagues recently conducted an interesting study on 300 kitchens in Syracuse, NY and found a correlation between participants’ weights and their kitchen counters. The researchers found that the “presence of fruit on the counter was associated with lower body mass index (BMI)… but the presence of foods such as candy, cereal, soft drinks, and dried fruit were associated with weight differences that ranged from 9.4 to 14.4 kg,” translating into roughly 20-30 pounds.

While such results found a correlation — as opposed to a cause and effect — between what is on your counter top and your weight, nonetheless, we can take away some useful pointers which may help us slim down.

As a nutritionist and author specializing in portion control and dieting, I believe that our environment is a huge factor affecting our eating habit. If we are served large food portions, we eat them. Similarly, if we leave candy lying around on our counter top, guess what? We will, most likely, eat it!

For the good news, how we set up our home environment, especially our kitchen can help us make healthier food choices. After all, as most of us know, leaving our food choices up to willpower is not the best idea.

Here are five simple things you can do to create a healthier kitchen environment. You may even lose a few pounds along the way.

1. Place a fruit bowl on your counter.

Keep fresh fruits handy. As Dr. Wansink’s study suggests, it’s a great idea to keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter.

2. Munch on baby carrots.

I’d also suggest keeping fresh vegetables in your refrigerator at arms reach. Baby carrots, celery, red peppers, you name it!

3. Put that box of cereal away!

If you love ready-to-eat cereal, aim for healthier whole grain varieties, and equally important, do not keep the cereal box sitting out on the kitchen counter. Put it away in the cupboard where you can’t see it. Seeing food, often translates into eating food!

4. Make junk food invisible.

Keep healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, in clear containers and unhealthy foods, such as candy and cookies, in opaque containers. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind!”

5. Follow the rule of one.

Keep only one bag of candy and one type of cookies in your kitchen at a time. The more variety we have, the more we tend to eat. This is a great concept when trying to eat a more colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to candy and junk food, I suggest not having too many choices around.

We would love to hear your kitchen makeover tricks.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Size Matters! Simple Strategies to Overcome Portion Distortion

Below is my post for Huffington Post, Size Matters! 10 simple strategies to overcome portion distortion.

You can also read it HERE.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity.

When results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a federal survey assessing the health of Americans, were released back in the mid-1990s with the scary statistic that the average American adult gained 8 pounds, I immediately suspected that it was due, at least in part, to growing food portions. However, back then, virtually no one was talking about portion sizes, at least as it related to obesity.

So I decided to conduct my doctoral dissertation exploring U.S. portion sizes and trace the history of food portions. Indeed, my research found that American food portions began to explode in the 1980s continuing through the 1990s and into the present. This increase in portion sizes parallels rising obesity rates, and is a perfectly logical explanation to explain rising obesity rates in the U.S.

Now, 20 years later, a comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge, analyzed results of over 60 studies involving more than 6,700 participants and found that larger portions and oversize tableware contribute to overeating. The study, published on Sept. 14, 2015, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that people consumed more food and drink when given bigger portions, plates, or silverware. And they ate more food regardless of if they were thin or overweight, male or female, hungry or not hungry.

We know that eating too much can lead to obesity, which increases our risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

As a long-time portion size researcher and educator, I believe that if we can make changes to our environment to reduce the availability and appeal of large portions and practice portion-control strategies on an individual level, we can make great strides to reduce obesity.

The University of Cambridge researchers concluded that efforts to reduce portion sizes could reduce caloric intake by up to 29 percent and (527 calories a day) among U.S. adults and up to 16 percent among U.K. adults. That is pretty significant and can make a huge difference in helping us all slim down!

As written in the University of Cambridge news release: “Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Gareth Hollands, a behavior and health researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“There has also been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-control as the main reason people overeat,” Dr. Hollands added.

The study suggests that legislation, price incentives, and marketing strategies may be needed to help bring about significant reductions in our food portions. As I wrotehere, I couldn’t agree more.

In the meantime, here are some simple things you can do to combat portion distortion.

1. Purchase single-serving portions.

2. Eat off of your grandmother’s dishes. They are sure to be smaller than your current plates.

3. Use smaller glasses and utensils too.

4. Avoid serving food family-style. Plate out your portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can get up for more.

5. Fill up half of your plate with nutritious fruits and vegetables. No one got fat eating too many carrots or berries.

6. When eating out, share an entrée with your dinner companion. Order an extra salad or vegetable side dish.

7. Wrap up leftovers. They make a great accessory.

8. Steer clear of all-you-can eat meals and deals. Resist the bargain. And remember, volume does not mean value!

9. Eat mindfully–sitting down, without distractions such as watching TV and talking on the phone. And do not straight out of the container.

10. And, finally, wherever you are, eat slowly and enjoy your company.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

We would love to hear your tricks on how to overcome oversize portions.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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A prize may encourage us to eat less

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “A prize may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Portion sizes have grown over the past 50 years, and so have our waistlines. As I found in my portion-size research, the fact that Americans are eating too much is a perfectly logical explanation to explain the current U.S. obesity crisis. While there is some good news on the horizon suggesting that we are finally beginning to eat less, we still have a long way to go.

Researchers from University of Southern California (USC) conducted several interesting experiments encouraging both kids and adults to select smaller portions. The results, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that people will often choose a smaller portion when offered some kind of incentive or prize.

The researchers conducted three experiments, all offering some kind of incentive to choose the smaller portion.

As discussed in USC News, “In the first experiment, sixth-graders were offered the choice between a 9-inch sandwich and a 4.5-inch sandwich and inexpensive earbuds. The majority chose the latter. In a second experiment with adults, half-sized portions were paired with the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card or the chance to win 10,000 frequent-flyer miles accepted by all major airline loyalty programs. The majority chose the incentive and made that choice consistently over three days. In a third experiment, the researchers got similar results in a real restaurant setting with customers who came in with the intention of buying a full-sized sandwich, but opted for the half-size and a chance to win a $10 lottery.”

As you can see, the incentive offered does not need to be anything fancy or expensive. And the subjects consistently chose the smaller portion-plus-incentive option even when it was priced the same as the larger portion.

And, best of all, at least from a public health perspective, the smaller portion will not leave you hungry.

The researchers tracked total calories consumed in the second experiment and found that subjects ate fewer calories when compared to their baseline day.

The research findings could be a great way to help reduce our calorie intake and fight obesity along with its associated health care costs.

USC marketing professor Deborah MacInnis wrote me in an email: “Incentivizing consumers to choose smaller portion sizes not only offers opportunities for lower daily calorie intake, it also has the potential to help consumers realize that smaller sized portions won’t leave them hungry.”

She also wrote, “As consumers, we value our freedom of choice. Laws and regulations remove freedom of choice and can backfire by creating resistance and reactance. Giving consumers the opportunity to choose between a full sized version and a smaller version with an uncertain incentive preserves freedom of choice while motivating policy-consistent (and health promoting) behaviors.”

Here are some take away messages.

1. As a nutritionist and portion-size researcher, what I found most interesting was that the subjects were not hungry after choosing the smaller portion. This lesson applies to all of us. We can usually be satisfied with less food. We can always order more food later if we are still hungry.

2. Consider leaving over some food, wrapping up leftovers, or sharing an entree next time you visit your favorite restaurant.

3. How about treating yourself to a reward? Perhaps splurge on a massage if you choose the smaller portion.

4. If you are a parent, try encouraging your kids to choose the smaller — healthier — portion, by offering a small non-food prize or reward. Your kids will probably prefer the prize more than the extra food.

5. It may be economically feasible for the food industry to sell smaller portions. If you are a restaurant owner, consider adding some kind of small incentive encouraging diners to choose the smaller portion. Just be sure not to offer them a free dessert, which would defeat the whole purpose.

Want to learn some portion-control tips and tricks without the reward? I discuss them here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Starbucks to mini size it!

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Starbucks to mini size it!

You can also read it HERE.

As a portion-size advocate, I was glad to hear about Starbucks plan to unveil the “mini” 10 oz. Frappuccino sugar-sweetened coffee drink, two ounces smaller than the “Tall” (also the smallest size sold by the coffee chain).

The new “mini” size would be considered a “regular” size by the 1970s standards, a time before the era of supersize portions and oversize people. But in today’s food environment of Venti, Trenta, and Big Gulp size drinks, it seems like progress for the food industry.

Americans rarely want less of anything. We are a nation attracted to bargains and deals, and that certainly includes big portions of foods and drinks. And the food industry has been wonderful at selling us cheap food in mega sizes.

Just a few years ago, back in 2011, Starbucks introduced the “trenta” size iced coffee, a 30+ oz. size, still available today.

Why the introduction of a “mini” size now?

Starbucks said it was responding to customer requests for the smaller Frappuccino size. According to Business Cheat Sheet, “Katie Seawell, senior vice president of category brand management at Starbucks, told the AP the mini Frappuccino helped lift overall store sales in the regions where it was tested last year… Seawell added it attracted new customers and got existing customers to come back more frequently.”

Are consumers interested in health or are they hoping that a smaller size would cost them less? It looks like the former. According to the Associated Press (AP), the “mini” size will only cost 20-30 cents less than the Tall size.

But the smaller size will contain fewer calories than larger sizes, and therefore, will be good for the waistline.

According to AP, “For the regular coffee with no whipped cream, Starbucks says it’ll have 120 calories and 24 grams of sugar. That’s compared with 180 calories and 36 grams of sugar for a small (tall) and 240 calories and 50 grams of sugar for a medium (grande). A large (venti) Frappuccino has 350 calories and 69 grams of sugar.”

Seems like progress. I hope this trend continues.

The soda industry has aggressively responded to anti-soda activists (including me) by selling smaller 7.5 oz. cans of sodas. Smaller sodas are lower in sugar than the larger sizes, better for health, and certainly selling points for parents. (Never mind that the 7.5 oz can costs more than the 12 oz. can, and that kids should be drinking water instead of soda.)

It is my hope moving forward, that as a food manufacturer introduces a new smaller size, it gets rid of the largest size. That would be the best way to reshape societal norms about how much food and drink constitutes a reasonable portion.

Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, tried this by attempting to cap the size of sugary drinks sold in chain eating establishments to 16 oz. But his attempt failed. (Not surprisingly, the soda industry sued the city and court system called the portion cap an overreach of power.)

In my opinion piece for the NY Daily News, I supported Bloomberg’s efforts.

As I wrote,
“Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable — a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let’s see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion.

And while one policy alone will not solve the problem, encouraging New Yorkers to watch what they consume is a much-needed step toward reversing the obesity epidemic. It is time to return to the more reasonable sizes of the past, when obesity rates were lower.”

Perhaps the former mayor was ahead of his time. Maybe now. It’s not too late.

Let us remember, when it comes to portion sizes and attempts to lose weight, size does matter.

Kudos to Starbucks. And I am hoping that the coffee chain considers dropping its large venti size Frappuccino in the not so distant future.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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6 handy tips to help get you slimmer by summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “6 handy tips to help you get you slimmer by summer”

You an also read it HERE.

With summertime right around the corner, as a nutritionist helping people shed unwanted pounds, I get calls from clients for simple tricks to lose weight, whether to be able to fit into last summer’s bathing suit or just be healthier.

Indeed, we have far too many overweight people who need to lose weight, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that since 1980 worldwide rates of obesity have doubled, and in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Yikes!

The key to losing weight — and keeping it off — is not following the diet de jour of the day. Rather, it is to be able to trim your portions and be mindful of how much you eat.

Having spent a good part of my career studying the link between portion sizes and obesity, it has become obvious to me that if we can learn to recognize how much food we should be eating (and then actually eat that amount), we would be much thinner, and would not need the wacky diets being promoted today. (After all, who want to walk around hungry and grumpy as Jeb Bush reported feeling when following The Paleo Diet?)

When people think of portion control, however, they often think of measuring cups and food scales, and then want to run the other way. However, I do not regularly recommend weighing food for the long term, especially because it is not practical. And because we eat out so often, where portion-control becomes all the more important, we need simple tools to help us guesstimate our food portions.

When I developed my Portion Teller program, I developed the “handy method” to help you guesstimate your portions: comparing your foods to different parts of your hand. It’s not a perfect comparison because everyone’s hand is a different size, but even if it’s not an exact science, it is very useful. And if your hand is larger than average, you can probably can eat more food than someone with a smaller hand.

Here are six handy tips to help you estimate just how much of your favorite foods you should be eating.

1. Cereal flakes

It is very easy to pour too much cereal into your favorite bowl. A tight fist is around a cup of cereal, which is an appropriate portion for most of us. Top the cereal with fat free milk and berries and your bowl will fill up fast.

2. Meat, poultry, or fish

Most restaurants serve us far too much meat, often giving us nearly an entire pound’s worth. The palm of your hand is around 3-4 oz. Eat no more than 1-2 palms’ worth of meat, fish, or chicken per meal. The trick is to fill up half of your plate with veggies.

3. Mixed nuts

Nuts make for a great snack. Because they are high in fat and calories, however, it is so important to watch your portion. If you eat shelled peanuts or pistachios, you can see the shells, thereby unconsciously getting you to eat less. Many of us, however, carelessly nibble on nuts and end up overeating without realizing. My recommendation is to spread one layer of nuts on your palm (around ¼ cup) and stop there! Don’t fall into the trap of just picking at nuts straight from the bag… because, before you know it, the entire bag will be empty.

4. Cheese

It is very easy to eat too much cheese, especially if you are at a cocktail party. We nibble on cheese with a glass of wine, and before we know it, we’ve eaten more than 1,000 calories. With my “Handy Method,” however, just grab two index fingers’ worth of cheese (approximately 2 ounces) and you are set. Just think of a peace sign! And remember, if you’ve eaten more cheese than you have fingers, you definitely overate.

5. Peanut butter

Who doesn’t love eating peanut butter straight from the jar?! It can be a dangerous practice, however, if you are trying to watch your calories. On my program, you can eat peanut butter and still lose weight. Just follow my “rules of thumb” for a healthy serving of peanut butter. Aim for three thumb tips’ worth of peanut butter which equals around one tablespoon (3 teaspoons).

6. Popcorn

When we think of popcorn, we often think of the movie theater — a typical food trap, with its bottomless bags of popcorn. A bag of popcorn at the movie theater often holds 20 cups, far too much food for one person. Many of us are watching a movie and absent-mindedly digging into our oversize bags grabbing piece after piece. Before we know it, we’ve eaten the entire bag.

If you want an idea of how much popcorn you’re eating, scoop out one rounded handful. That’s about 1/2 cup. Or, cup both your hands together, and scoop out a mound of popcorn. That’s a cup. A healthy popcorn serving contains 3 cups of popcorn. Hold the butter.

We’d love to hear from you if you have a “handy” tip or a favorite trick to help control your portions.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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