Ronald ordered a chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. The steak covered the entire platter-sized plate. He ate it all. The mashed potatoes and gravy, and macaroni and cheese, too. It was just so darned good.
Once Ron takes the first bite, he has a hard time stopping.
One of the keys to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is to manage the size of the portions you eat, says Linda Stockman, MS, RD, CDE, and Scott & White Medical Weight Management Program (MWMP) coach.
Ms. Stockman offers some tips on controlling your portions at meal and snack time.
Plan for Success
“Set yourself up for success because willpower is very fleeting,” Ms. Stockman says.
“Don’t take the first bite in a dangerous setting is one of the best strategies for not overeating.”
Eat balanced meals —with carbohydrates, proteins and fats —“because we know that balanced meals keep you feeling full longer,” Ms. Stockman says.
Eat regularly, every four to six hours. Skipping meals sends your body into conserve mode, which “can decrease calorie burning,” Ms. Stockman says.
Snack on small, satisfying treats. To avoid having high-fat, high-sugar snacks, Ms. Stockman recommends small-portioned bags such as 100-calorie packs. She suggests choosing low-fat snacks that are high in fiber and/or protein that will leave you feeling full longer:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Small piece of fruit
- Cereal bar
- A few whole-grain crackers
- Rice cakes
- Light yogurt
- Low-fat milk
- Low-fat cheese stick
- Edamame beans
“Desirable snacks are the ones that make you feel satisfied with a small portion. Less desirable snacks make you want to keep going back for more,” explains Ms. Stockman.
Don’t restrict your eating too severely when you’re trying to lose weight, Ms. Stockman advises. Not only will that decrease calorie burning, but it may also cause you to overeat, which can wipe out the progress made on those dieting days.
Don’t be tempted to continue to overeat after one episode of indulgence. “It’s only what you do routinely that affects your weight,” Ms. Stockman says.
“When you overeat, it causes you to gain some water weight for a few days. Don’t weigh yourself right after an episode of overeating. Wait a few days and you will see that you didn’t do as much damage as you thought,” says Ms. Stockman.
Tips for Eating Out
Don’t order appetizers. They’re often super-tasty but high calorie, adding extra calories you don’t need, Ms. Stockman says.
If you do order an appetizer, put a small portion on your plate and wait a while before taking the first bite,Ms. Stockman suggests. You’ll eat less that way.
Eat a big salad first before you receive your entrée. If you’re filled up on the salad or other veggies, Ms. Stockman advises, you’ll have less room for the high-calorie, high-fat entrées that are tempting at restaurants. Be sure to order a low-fat salad dressing.
As soon as your meal arrives, cut it in half and place half in a to-go container before you take your first bite. “Once you take that first bite, and it tastes good, it’s really hard to quit eating it,” Ms. Stockman says.
Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets. It’s very difficult not to take in a double or triple meal at a buffet, and if you consistently eat double or triple meals, you’ll have a double or triple weight, says Ms. Stockman.
Day-to-Day Practical Tips
View a soda, sweet drink or fruit drink as dessert. “A 20-ounce soda with no ice is like eating five pieces of bread. When you drink a sugary soda with your meal, it’s as if you’re eating a double meal. Limit the amount of sweet drinks you drink because they can double or triple the amount of calories you’re taking in,” says Ms. Stockman.
Pack a cooler with blue ice and healthful snacks. Take it with you to work or your daily activities. “If you’re caught without any food, that’s often a good excuse to eat food that’s more calorie-dense. Be prepared with healthful alternatives,” suggests Ms. Stockman.
You will know a snack is a good one if 15 or 20 minutes after eating it, you don’t want any more. “It takes your brain about 15 or 20 minutes to know that you are satisfied, full,” Ms. Stockman says.
Identify your trigger foods — those foods that you often overeat. For example, doughnuts are trigger foods for many people, and “if you’re in a situation where there’s only a few,” says Ms. Stockman, “that’s a safe time to eat that food. But if you’re in a situation where your trigger food may be sitting there all day beside you or in the break room, that’s probably a good time to avoid the food altogether.” Don’t take the first bite in a dangerous setting is one of the best strategies for not overeating, Ms. Stockman says.
Look at your temptations and devise some rules to limit them. For example, Ms. Stockman suggests, if you love soda, set a rule that you will have only one soda per week and you will enjoy it at your favorite time to have it.
“The best way to change a habit,” Ms. Stockman says, “is to start practicing new behavior and eventually the new behavior will be your habit.”