The Slim Mom’s Diet Secret

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Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with a friend who is overweight. While she ate plenty of fruits and vegetables—and didn’t snack much—she heaped her plate with food at every meal. And then typically went back for seconds (another heaping portion). While the food she was eating was technically “healthy”, her portion sizes were anything but.

She’s not alone. This habit of oversizing meals (and food) is all too common in America. (It’s no wonder that obesity—among adults and kids—is on the rise!) And I can see this behavior already starting in my eight-year-old son (he loves to eat—and always wants to go back for seconds).

So when I spoke to a friend of mine, author and nutritionist Jodie Shield, MEd, RD, she recommended her new book (which she co-authored with nutritionist Mary Catherine Mullen, MS, RD): Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens. In it, there’s a slew of good advice not just for kids and teens, but for adults, too. One of the book’s all-important tips: Practice Portion Control!

Whenever I talk to other moms who are slim, they’re not dieting; they practice portion control. They eat a little bit at each meal…and don’t make having seconds a habit. They enjoy food, without deprivation.

With that in mind, I culled these key portion-control strategies, all from Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens (which is published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics):

1.) Visualize the correct portion size. Knowing how much of something you should be eating—without having to weigh it or measure it—is key. Here’s a sample of the correct portion sizes from the book:

Food A portion is a size of
Bread CD cover
Dry cereal Baseball
Cooked cereal, rice, or pasta ½ baseball
Pancake or waffle CD
Bagel Hockey puck
Lean beef/poultry Deck of cards
Grilled/baked fish Checkbook
Peanut butter Ping-pong ball
Oil/salad dressing Standard cap on a 16-ounce water bottle

2.) Downsize your dishes. Use smaller salad plates, instead of the typical large dinner plates, for meals. Studies have found that smaller dishes trick our brains into thinking we’re eating more food because a smaller portion looks larger in a little dish.

3.) Know what should be on your plate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently got rid of the Food Guide Pyramid (it was pretty useless in my opinion!) and came out something called MyPlate—which is essentially what should be on your plate (and in what serving sizes) at each meal. Check it out at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

4.) Skip seconds, except for fruits and veggies! Dish out the correct portions of grains, meat/protein, and fruits and veggies. But make it a rule to only go back for fruits and veggies—unless it’s a special occasion.

5.) Eat slowly. After we start eating, it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it’s full. Put your fork down between bites, and alternate with sips of water.

6.) Move unhealthy foods out of sight. Shift healthier foods like sliced veggies, fat-free yogurt, and fresh berries to the front of the fridge, and store high-fat and sugar-added goodies like chips or cookies on higher shelves and out of immediate reach. (There is some truth to the idea of out of sight, out of mind; if you can’t see a food, you won’t be tempted to eat it!)

7.) Put away the bag! Never eat foods from a bag or carton. Serve out a portion size—and put the rest away. This helps prevent mindless munching, which often leads to eating more than one serving.

© Valerie Latona LLC 2012