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.
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).
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.