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Tips for Portion Control, No Matter What You Eat
Whether the goal is to lose weight or to simply eat a properly balanced diet, managing portion control can be the difference between success and failure. Even those who make it a point to eat the right foods can undermine their efforts by eating more than it takes to get the desired nutritional value.
It’s been said that the U.S. has a portion control problem, a major factor in the country’s growing problem with obesity. Part of it is in enjoying too much of a good thing, but there also is a general lack of knowledge when it comes to the recommended serving size.
With that in mind, here are some tips personal trainers can share with their clients to help them with portion control.
Call on a Helping Hand
The easiest way to help clients figure out if they are eating the proper portion sizes is to explain how they can use their own hand as a measuring device. In simple terms, a single serving of:
- protein, such as meat, fish, or poultry, is the size of your palm.
- vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist.
- carbs, such as rice or potatoes, is the size of a cupped handful.
- snacks, such as pretzels or chips, is the size of a cupped handful.
- cheese or nuts is the length of your thumb.
One of the reasons this method is particularly effective is that hands, like people, are different sizes. So, a bigger person, who will need to eat more than a smaller person, will have the necessary adjustment built in. Clients are likely to be surprised at “how little” a single serving is. However, those who are committed to their efforts to lose weight will soon find that it won't take long to settle into the new normal of smaller portions.
Load up on Vegetables
Vegetables, and plenty of them, should be part of every meal. They add volume and nutrition without adding a lot of calories. A good trick is to pile the vegetables on the plate first, which will reduce the amount of space for proteins and carbs. Eating too many vegetables is not going to be an issue, so there’s no need to worry about taking too much.
Think Out of Sight, Out of Stomach
While it may be customary to have meals served family-style at the table, it only serves as a temptation for overeating. Recommend that your clients dish up a dinner plate at the counter or the stove before sitting down and leave the rest of the food off the table. When their plate is empty, the meal is over. Use those good leftovers for another meal.
Don’t be a Distracted Eater
Eating while watching TV, working on a laptop, or even while driving is common practice, and it also is a bad idea for people who want to keep a close eye on portions. Doing other things while eating makes it too easy to mindlessly keep putting food into your mouth. Clients should concentrate on what they are eating; they might even enjoy it more.
Never Eat Out of the Box or the Bag
Like the point above, eating such things as popcorn, nuts, chips, or pretzels out of the box makes it too easy to lose track of how much you are eating. It’s always best to put the appropriate amount on a plate, in a bowl or simply in your hand and put the rest away for another day.
Take Proper Measure
Measuring cups and scales aren't necessary, but they can be useful, especially when first learning what a single serving size looks like. They also make it easy to pre-plan meals; simply measure out the proper amount ahead of time and know that come meal or snack time the correct portion already has been determined.
Be Proactive at Restaurants
Most main courses at restaurants contain more than a single serving, and for many of us, that means eating it all anyway. There are two easy ways to prevent that from happening. For one, split the entrée with someone you are dining with. The other option is to ask for a box when the food is served and wrap up half the meal when it’s brought to the table.
Portion control is a great way to start building better eating habits that support long-term weight loss. Following a healthy meal plan won’t be effective if you’re eating the right foods but still consuming more than the recommended number of calories. If you can help clients avoid overeating, there are fewer calories they’ll need to work off down the road.
If you’re interested in learning more about healthy eating and nutrition, ISSA offers a comprehensive course in nutrition coaching. Not only will you increase your knowledge, but you’ll also gain another tool to help clients and expand your personal training business.