6 portion mistakes you’re probably making with meals and why

As an American, it’s not hard to overdo it when we’re eating. In restaurants, portion size equates to a good value and portion control at home isn’t easy when we fill our plates and bowls to capacity. Here’s a cheat sheet to keep food portions under control.

Your dinnerware is huge Maybe we can blame our dishes. According to research published in the 2012 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research huge dinner plates and deep-dish cereal bowls could help us shovel in 9% to 31% more food. Back in the 1900s, a plate was around 9 inches. Today, it’s not uncommon for plates to be 12 inches. Studies show using smaller plates and bowls help but color plays a significant role too. Research revealed we eat less when there is a significant contrast between the color of the food on the color of the plate. White plates and bowls will be your best choice as they provide a sharp contrast for most foods.

You don’t use your hands Your hand provides a convenient visual portion control tool so use it until you train your eyes to know the correct portion. Here’s a primer – one palm for protein, a fist for veggies, a cupped hand for carbs and a thumb-sized portion for fats. Using a measuring cup and/or measuring spoons for a few weeks helps train your brain too.

You’re not counting the cherries You get props for choosing fruit over a sugary and fatty dessert but before you go patting yourself on the back, how many cherries are you actually eating from your bowl? Bing cherries with the pit are about 75 calories per cup or 18 cherries. Let’s look at grapes. A one cup serving is equal to about 16 grapes and about 65 calories, yet if you eat them straight from the vine, you’ll likely be eating more.

Your healthy sandwich is fooling you Some labels on bread scream a low-calorie content but that can be misleading. Read the actual label to see if the calories mentioned are for one piece of bread or two. Same goes for the deli meat you’re stackin’ high. It’s so thin, right? Look at the label and find out how many calories are in a slice. Oh, and don’t forget about the cheese portions!

You’re pouring way too much Grape Nuts in your bowl  This is a prime example of big bowls fooling you. It’s so easy to keep pouring until the bowl is at least half-way full but the actual serving size on the box may only be 1/2 to one cup! Another bowl staple is soup. Be careful of soups that state a specific amount of calories on the label. For example, a popular brand is 50% lower in calories at just 60 calories but that is for one serving and the can has two. That tiny amount of soup probably won’t satisfy your hunger.

Your food keeps staring at you Out of sight, out of mind isn’t just an old saying. It really works if you’re trying to forget about something – like that second helping of grandma’s mac-n-cheese. As beautiful as a bountiful table of food looks, it’s not ideal if you’re trying to control portions. Keep all the food in the kitchen and you’re less likely to go for seconds.

You eat your portions too fast Portion size advice is pretty black and white. The difficult part is feeling satisfied with the portion. How will 10 nuts or a half-cup of cereal be satisfying? With practice, yes. First, slow down! Chew your food thoroughly. Savor the flavor and texture. When you’re eating popcorn or pretzels, eat one at a time. Use toddler utensils to savor your portioned pudding or ice cream. Have some fun at dinner and use chopsticks to hasten the chow down speed. In time, mindful eating will pay off and you’ll be satisfied with your healthy portion.

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