It’s no secret that as portion sizes have grown, so have we. Studies have shown repeatedly that when offered more food – whether it’s in a fast-food bag, at home or at a restaurant – we eat more.
And we certainly are offered more food than ever. In 1957, an order of fries at a fast-food counter weighed 2 ounces. Today, an order of fries can weigh as much as 6 ounces. Plates in restaurants are larger, too, as are beverage glasses.
The result: The average adult weighs nearly 25 pounds more now than in 1960, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That weight gain hurts us all over, from our hearts to our joints.
Eating less doesn’t have to feel like a series of “Don’ts” and “Watch outs.” Here are five simple, sensible strategies to keep your portions – and your weight – in check.
Exercise every day. If you’re not active, you can start by slowly walking around the block. Physical activity helps regulate appetite, so you’ll be less inclined to pile hefty portions onto your plate. And if you eat out of tedium or anxiety, taking a walk keeps you away from the refrigerator.
Eat more vegetables, but set a goal you can achieve. If you currently eat none each day, strive for one serving. If you eat one serving a day, shoot for two. Vegetables are low in calories and their fiber will help you feel full – so you’ll have less room for the calorie-dense foods.
Don’t confuse a serving with a portion. For instance, a serving of pasta, according to the USDA, is a half-cup. If you’re woman who’s not very active, you should eat six servings of grains daily. But a single pasta meal at a restaurant, combined with bread, might amount to eight to 10 servings – too many even for an active man.
Eat out less often, so you can more easily control portion size and ingredients. Let’s face it: Very few people ask for two-thirds of their meal to be put into a doggie bag immediately after being served, which is what is generally necessary to get restaurant portions down to a reasonable size. And while ordering fish grilled or broiled instead of fried is wise, it still may be prepared with plenty of oil.
Make tangible rules you can follow. “I’m going to eat less” is too vague. Try, “I will add another serving of fruit to my daily diet” or “My kitchen closes at 8 p.m. – no more food after that.” Definitive steps like these help people control portions even when they’re not thinking about them.