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Posts Tagged ‘ Portion Teller ’

8 portion-control hacks that really work.

Below is my blog post for HufPost “8 portion-control hacks that really work.”

You can also read it here.

photo credit: Oleksandra Naumeko/Bigstock.com

As a nutritionist and portion-size researcher, I’ve helped thousands of clients slim down while eating foods they love with my “Portion Teller”program. My philosophy is simple. All foods are allowed—-some in unlimited amounts (non-starchy vegetables and fruits), some in moderate portions (whole grains, dairy, and healthy fats) and others in small portions (alcohol and sweets). To lose weight, it is necessary to eat fewer calories than you burn.

So where does portion-control fit in?

When you eat less, you take in fewer calories. However, as a portion-size researcher and clinician, the term “portion-control” doesn’t mean eating tiny portions. In fact a dieter’s worst enemy is staring at a half empty plate and being hungry—and hangry!—all the time. The key to successful weight loss is being able to distinguish between which foods you can eat plentifully and which foods you do really need to watch. It also means being able to correctly estimate how much you should be eating (and are actually eating) so that you can stick with a healthy food plan. And certain practices also make it easier to control your portions.

Below are my tips and tricks to helping you manage your portions while shedding a few pounds along the way without feeling in the least bit deprived.

1. Load up on colorful fruits and veggies.

I’ve said this before. No one got fat eating fruits and vegetables. While a banana may have more calories than a cup of cantaloupe, enjoying a banana will not make you fat. Similarly, while a cup of carrots contains more calories than a cup of lettuce, this orange sweet-tasting veggie will not fatten you up. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber and water helping you to feel full while also giving your body vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants good for your health.

Size it up: Fill half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal. Practicing portion control will feel a whole lot simpler.

2. Mix and match.

To practice portion-control effectively, you do not want to feel hungry. To avoid such feelings, I suggest eating foods that contain nutrients that promote feelings of fullness. Protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats do the trick. Therefore at each meal, try “mixing and matching:” eating a combination of foods to keep you satiated. Include protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and grass-fed beef; fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa); and a sprinkling of healthy fats including olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Size it up: A yummy—and filling—dinner includes grilled salmon, roasted asparagus and cauliflower, and cup of quinoa.

3. Smartsize your dishes (and your spoons!).

Considerable research has shown that the size of our plates, bowls and even utensils (yes, spoons!) can play a major role in the amount of food we eat. The larger the plate the more we serve ourselves and tend to eat.

Eating off of a larger plate can actually be a good strategy for salads and veggies that we want to eat more of. And not all portion-control strategies are about eating less. However, for a pasta meal, I’d certainly suggest downsizing your bowl.

Spoon sizes and drinking glasses make a difference too!

In a study by Cornell researchers, nutrition experts given a larger bowl served themselves 31.0% more without even noticing. And, when given a larger serving spoon, their servings increased by 14.5%. And these are experts! Imagine how food novices would respond.

University of Cambridge researchers reported that people drank more wine when their glass was bigger. 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.

Size it up: Want to enjoy an ice cream treat in the dog days of summer? Use a small bowl and a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.

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

When you go out to eat, which Americans do quite often these days, you’re not likely to bring along a food scale and measuring cups but you always have your hand.

Since so many of us overdo our starch portion (think rice, pasta, and potato), I advise clients to make a fist and enjoy a healthy 1-cup portion instead of banning starch altogether.

This method is not an exact science (after all, we all have different size hands) but it sure does come in handy.

• a fist = 1 cup of rice, pasta, cereal

• palm of your hand = 3 ounces of poultry or meat

• 2 fingers (a peace sign) = 2 ounce of cheese

• bent thumb joint = 1 tablespoon of oil or peanut butter

Size it up: Want to include an occasional serving of red meat in your diet, without overdoing it? Think a palm’s worth. And, add lots of colorful veggies to round out your plate.

5. Don’t leave home without your checkbook and dental floss.

Visualizing everyday objects can also be a great way to estimate serving sizes. Check out these familiar items to help keep your portions in check. For additional visuals, check out my book The Portion Teller Plan.

• baseball = 1 cup of starch (rice, pasta, potatoes)

• deck of cards = 3-4 ounces of poultry or meat

• checkbook = 4 ounces white fish

• shot glass = 2 tablespoons oil or salad dressing

• package of dental floss = 1 ounce of a treat: a cookie or piece of chocolate

Size it up: No need to ban healthy grains from your dinner plate. Fill half of your plate with your favorite veggies, a quarter of the plate healthy protein (1-2 decks of cards) and the other quarter (think one baseball’s worth!) with healthy grain such as wild rice, whole wheat pasta, or whole sorghum.

6. Indulge, once in a while

As I tell my weight-loss clients, it is OK to include a daily treat to keep you from feeling deprived and to make your eating plan enjoyable. This practice makes it easier to practice portion-control and stick to a healthy food plan for the long term.

Size it up: Enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a cookie for dessert. Include a large bowl of mixed berries too!

7. Stock up on baggies and small containers.

comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge confirmed that larger portions and packages contribute to overeating. We tend to eat more when our food packages are bigger! And, we do not even feel more full.

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.

Size it up: Keep small containers handy too so you can store leftovers in perfect portions.

8. Slow down, you move too fast…

Yes, this brilliant phrase comes from the lyrics of the popular Simon and Garfunkel song, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling’ Groovy). Here’s my food spin on it. When you eat slowly, you tend to be more mindful, and are more in tune with your body’s needs. You also end up eating less! A win-win!

Size it up: Savor your meal, enjoy your dining companion, and breathe in between bites.

I offer more portion hacks here and here.

We’d love to hear about your favorite portion tricks.

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Welcome to 2013!: 8 Healthy Tips

Welcome to 2013.  8 Tips to Better Health

Happy New Year!

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post. You can also read it here.

Happy 2013!  Do you feel that another year has gone by and you have not met your health and weight loss goals? As a registered dietitian (RD), I counsel so many clients who have told me that they make new resolutions early in the New Year, and by spring, they are bored, frustrated and back to their old patterns. Here are some tips I’ve offered them–and now you–to get out of the all-or-nothing mentality and into the mode of setting lifestyle goals that you can actually stick with to help you lead a healthier and more hassle-free life.

1. Set mini goals. Set goals that are achievable and that work with your life. If you want to lose 50+ pounds, set a mini goal first, say 10 pounds. When you lose those 10 pounds, then you can work on the next 10 pounds.

2. Practice portion control. Watching your portion sizes is the single best way to lose weight and keep it off, while eating all your favorite foods. Bigger portions contain more calories than smaller portions, so scaling back on the size of your food portion will help you trim calories. The best way to get started is first to identify how much you actually eat and when you overeat so that you can make necessary changes. Practicing portion control does NOT mean having to eat tiny portions of all foods. You’ll want to limit food portions that are high in calories—such as salad dressings, chocolate, and soda, for example. But good news—you can eat MORE fresh fruits and veggies without having to worry about how much you’ve just eaten. A salad is a great choice (and don’t worry about how much lettuce and cucumbers you include, as they have few calories) but you’ll want to scale back on the salad dressing which is high in calories. Aim for no more than a shot glass worth of dressing which is 2 tablespoons.  I offer an extensive list of tips and tricks in my book The Portion Teller Plan.

3. Keep a food diary for a while. Identifying your problem areas with your food choices is the first step toward making lasting changes. Try keeping a food diary—even for just a month—to identify your problem zones. Try to be mindful of what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and if you eat because you are truly hungry, or for some other reason.

4. Make small changes. Aim for making 1-2 small changes at a time. You are most likely to stick to it, if you set a small goal.  First, try to avoid liquid calories in the form of soda, for example. After a week or so, when you get that down pat, work on avoiding fried foods for example. And so on. And reward your behavior!

5. Eat a rainbow of colors. Try eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables and vary them by color. Choosing a colorful array of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrum. PS: By eating a more colorful diet, I’m not referring to different colors of M & M’s!!

6. Indulge in your favorite “cheat” every now and then. By incorporating and legalizing your favorite cheat food once in a while, you will less likely feel the need to have it. Enjoy  it and don’t feel guilty.

7. Get moving. Do an activity you really enjoy and can be incorporated into your life. Pick something you enjoy and can sustain. If you didn’t like going to gym last year, this year, set a goal to do a different kind of exercise. And, remember, small lifestyle exercises count. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, walk for a few blocks at lunch, or park your car a few blocks away from your destination.

8. Nix DIETS. Forget fad diets, high protein diets, or “magical” food combining. You are most likely to succeed if you eat foods from all food groups and develop a healthy lifestyle.

And finally, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. MAKE A COMMITMENT TO SUCCEED AND YOU WILL!!

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Holiday tip: mini-size it!

Here is my latest blog post for Huffington Post. You can also read it here.

Happy holidays!

Holiday tip: mini-size it!

Mini-size it! A great way—perhaps the best way—to cut calories is to trim your portion sizes. Especially of foods that are high in calories. That would include many treats you would find at holiday parties and events such as eggnog, specialty hot chocolates, fancy chocolates, and cakes. The good news about using portion control as a way to trim calories is that you do not have to entirely ban your favorite treats and traditional holiday foods. The key to success, especially during the holiday season is “moderation.” If you crave a fattening food, it is ok to treat yourself to a small serving.

A few healthy holiday tips:

  • If you are baking a pie for guests, try cutting it into 10-12 slices instead of 8 slices.
  • If you are baking holiday cookies, bake smaller ones.
  • Buy mini muffin pans so you have them handy so that you can bake mini muffins.
  • If you are cooking potato latkes for Chanukah, make smaller ones, and use less oil.
  • Eat off of smaller plates.
  • Drink out of smaller glasses. Sip wine, for example, out of a smaller wine glass when possible (if entertaining at home, for example) and limit refills. Liquid calories add up quickly.
  • Eyeball serving sizes using common visuals. Three ounces of meat look like a deck of cards, 1/4 cup nuts looks like a golf ball, and two tablespoons of salad dressing fills a shot glass.
  • Use your hand as a guide.  Stick with a portion of meat the size of your palm and your starch (potato or rice) should be around the size of your fist. (Of course healthy veggies, without dressing, can be consumed in generous portions.)

As the quote goes: “If you can half-it, you can have it.” Or, as I write in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, “What kind of sandwich isn’t fattening?: The answer: “a half sandwich.”

Happy holidays!

Enjoy family, friends, and of course moderate portions of your favorite foods.

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New portion-size campaign: Cut your portions. Cut your risk.

Today, the NYC Health Department, very proactive in fighting obesity and other public health issues, launches a new ad campaign– Cut Your Portions. Cut Your Risk.–spotlighting the role of increasing portion sizes and it consequences for obesity and other health problems. The campaign is urging New Yorkers to be more aware of portion sizes when deciding what to eat or drink.

To hit home, this campaign will feature New York City subway posters encouraging New Yorkers to cut their portions to reduce their risk of health problems. The posters will be in English and in Spanish. Here is a sample.

This portion-size campaign is dear to my heart as I have researched the trend toward growing portion sizes over the past 50 years. And the campaign is based, in part, on my work on growing portion sizes and it’s contribution to the obesity epidemic. Serving sizes of most foods available for immediate consumption, including French fries, soft drinks, hamburgers, and baked goods have more than doubled in size—and therefore in the amount of calories they contain–in the past few decades. In many cases, a single meal is so big that it can contain many more calories than most of us need for an entire day. One of the problems with big portions is that we eat more when we are served more!

Here are several academic articles, co-authored with my mentor and NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle, summarizing my research:

I also write about the trend toward growing portion sizes and offer solutions in my book The Portion Teller Plan.

Hopefully, this new campaign, along with NYC DOH’s ongoing requirement that chain restaurants post calorie counts on menu boards, and some of it’s other terrific ad campaigns, will continue to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to make healthier choices and to eat LESS.

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A “handy” way to size up servings

With portion sizes so big, using visuals as a guide to guesstimate how much food is on your plate is a useful tool. I previously wrote about some visuals I’ve used in my book The Portion Teller Plan. Here, I will highlight the Handy method for estimating portions. I use this guide successfully with many of my New York City clients. You may not always have a deck of cards or CD case handy, so using your own hand serves as a helpful guide.  The “Handy Method” helps you guesstimate your portions by comparing your foods to different parts of your hand. Everyone has a different size hand, but using your hand is useful nonetheless.  If your hand is smaller than average, you are probably smaller than average, and should eat less food.

Here are some HANDY examples:

  • Two fingers                  2 oz cheese
  • Your palm                    3 oz meat
  • Your thumb                  1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Rounded handful          1/2 cup rice or pasta
  • Two handfuls                1 cup popcorn
  • One layer of your hand     ¼ cup mixed nuts
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Unrealistic serving sizes

Unrealistic serving sizes

Do you know anyone who eats only ¾ cup cereal, ½ cup of ice cream, or 1 cup of soup at a sitting? Probably not. Even children eat more than that.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its serving-size regulations as many people underestimate serving size.

Labels for canned soup, ice cream, coffee creamer and non-stick cooking sprays understate the calories and sodium consumers are likely to eat. Canned soup, in particular, presents a clear example of how unrealistic the stated serving sizes are. Labels for Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle soup, for example, indicate that a serving size is 1 cup — a little less than half a can with 790 milligrams of sodium. But in a telephone survey commissioned by CSPI, 64 percent of consumers surveyed said they would eat the whole can at one time and only 10 percent of consumers say they eat a 1-cup portion!  Chances are you are getting closer to 1500 mg sodium. Ice cream serving sizes are also unrealistic. The serving size is a half-cup of ice cream—a quarter of a pint.  However, many people eat closer to a whole cup. And some people probably eat an entire pint.

In my experience counseling overweight patients, and as I wrote in my book The Portion Teller Plan, so many people underestimate how many calories they consume, in part because people think that a serving is whatever amount they eat, and pay little attention to the amount of food listed on a package label. And since typical portions have grown in size, the amount of food you usually buy these days is much more than the amount listed on a package label. After all, I have never seen an ice cream shop sell ½ cup serving. (And if they did, consumers would probably complain!) Kiddie sizes usually contain at least 1 cup of ice cream.

Anahad O’Conner from The New York Times has an excellent summary.  The foods shown above, from the NYT article, are typically underestimated by many consumers.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/the-problem-with-serving-sizes/?ref=health

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To cut calories, try cutting food in half!

New research reported in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found what I have been preaching for years and in my book The Portion Teller Plan : to cut back on how many calories you eat, try eating a smaller portion! In this study, which looked at candy size, the researchers found that slicing candies in half caused subjects to eat less of the snacks, and ultimately fewer calories.

Subjects–college students–were put in one of 2 groups: in one, 20 pieces of candy were served whole. In another, the 20 candies were cut in half. During both tests, people ate about the same number of pieces.  Those who ate the larger pieces, however, consumed about 60 calories more than those who ate the smaller pieces.

Interestingly, no substantial differences were found in the groups regarding hunger, how much the test subjects liked the candies, and whether they ate candy on a regular basis.

Here is the take home message:  if you want to eat fewer calories, try cutting your portion. And, skip the over sized packages of candy, chips, and soda. Say no to the jumbo king size candy bar, or split it with several friends.

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What’s your portion IQ?

Test your portion IQ: Wheel of Portion quiz

With portion sizes so big these days, it is hard to get a handle on how much food constitutes a normal portion.

Question: How much soda comes in a small cup?

Answer: It depends on the year!

When Burger King first opened in the mid 1950s, a small soda was 12 oz and a large was 16 oz. Today the 12 oz is called kiddie and the 16 oz is called small. What was once labeled  large is now called small. Confused? No surprise. And you can even get a 42 oz size.

When I wrote my book The Portion Teller Plan, I created a lengthy quiz, Wheel of Portion, to test your knowledge of portion sizes.  It is a great way to get a handle on how big portions have become and can help you learn to scale back.

Here is a sampling of questions from the quiz. Enjoy!

A typical deli/bakery bagel is equal to approximately _____ slices of bread (and servings of grains.).

a.  2

b.  3

c.  5

d.  8

correct answer: c

.

A take-out order of your favorite Chinese food comes with a side of rice. How many cups does that portion of rice contain?

a.  ½ cup

b.  1 cup

c.  2 cups

d.  3 cups

correct answer: c

.

How many standard grain servings are in that side of rice?

a.  1

b.  2

c.  3

d.  4

e.  6

correct answer: d

.

All of the following are ways to cut down your intake of meat while dining in a restaurant except:

a.  sharing a meat entrée with a friend

b.  ordering an extra portion of “sides” such as vegetables and baked potato

c.  just ordering off the menu without making special requests

d.  ordering two entrees—one meat entrée and one vegetarian entrée—and a large salad and splitting them several ways

correct answer: c

.

1/2 cup serving of cooked rice or pasta looks like:

a.  a golf ball

b.  ½ baseball

c. a baseball

d.  a walnut

correct answer: b

.

For lunch, Jane ate a turkey sandwich (3 oz turkey on 2 slices rye bread), a cup of vegetable soup, and an apple. Her lunch included…

a. 1 serving from the grain group, 1 serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

b. 2 servings from the grain group, 1 serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

c. 3 servings from the grain group, two serving from the meat group, 1 serving from the vegetable group and 1 serving from the fruit group

correct answer: b

.

A 1 oz serving of ready-to-eat (cold) cereal translates into approximately:

a. 1 cup cheerios

b. 1/4 cup granola

c. 2 cups puffed rice

d. all of the above

e. a and c

correct answer: d

.

A pint of orange juice contains ___  oz?

a.       4

b.      8

c.       12

d.      16

e.       20

correct answer: d

.

Your friend drank a pint of orange juice for breakfast. This translates into how many fruit servings:

a.       1, after all, it is 1 pint

b.   2

c.   almost 3

d.   4

correct answer: c

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Eyeballing serving sizes

Eyeballing serving sizes: a visual guide

As I often tell my clients, if you happen to be cooking and eating at home, it is a great idea to measure your food on occasion, as a way to gauge how much food you actually eat. (Most of us think we eat less—often much less—than we actually eat.) But if you don’t have easy access to a food scale, or if you regularly eat out, it’s helpful to use everyday objects to visualize healthy portions.

To help you eyeball some standard serving sizes, here are some simple visuals from my book The Portion Teller Plan. I have developed a set of useful images of real life objects, like baseballs and walnuts, as dimensional indicators for standard serving sizes of commonly consumed foods.  Because most of us can visualize these objects, it’s a great way to keep portions in check. It makes you think about how much food you’re piling on your plate.

  • Nuts, 1/4 cup = golf ball
  • Salad dressing or olive oil, 2 tablespoons = shot glass
  • Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons = walnut in a shell
  • Ice cream, ½ cup = ½ baseball
  • Cheese, 2 oz = 8 dice
  • Pasta or rice, 1 cup = baseball
  • Oil, 1 teaspoon = water-bottle cap
  • Meat, fish, or poultry, 3 ounces = deck of cards
  • Bread, 1 ounce slice = CD case

Here’s a slide show I worked on with msn.com with useful visuals. Enjoy!

The Australian edition of Woman’s Day featured a full page article on some of the visuals from The Portion Teller Plan. [ NOTE: The Aussies have become big like us so they can use some portion-control tips.]

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Welcome to The Portion Teller

Welcome to The Portion Teller!

This blog will discuss issues related to portion sizes,

highlight current events, nutrition trends, and provide

useful diet and portion control tips.

Have a healthy day!

Dr. Lisa Young

Your portion-control and nutrition expert

“All things in moderation, including moderation.”

Contact Dr. Lisa for 2011 Consultations.

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD


About Dr. Young: Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD is a registered dietitan in private practice, adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU, and a portion size researcher tracking trends in food portions.  She teaches, lectures, writes, and counsels on nutrition and diet.

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