When it comes to estimating healthy portion sizes, measuring utensils and comparisons to household measures are easy ways to keep your portions in check, as discussed in this week's Food for Thought column. But there are a few other strategies that you might want to keep up your sleeve.
The first is called the Plate Model - and it's a no-fail simplified way to ensure your portions are on par with healthy eating recommendations. The basis of the Plate Model is to use your plate as a visual guide when choosing portions for lunch and dinner. Step 1: Visualize your plate and divide it into quarters. Step 2: Fill two quarters of the plate with vegetables. Choose brightly coloured vegetables for extra nutrients, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard and squash. Try to fill this half of the plate with at least two different vegetables. Step 3: Fill one quarter of the plate with a starchy vegetable or whole grain. Healthy options include sweet potato, baked potato, brown rice, quinoa or whole grain pasta. Step 4: Fill one quarter of the plate with a protein food, such as beef, chicken, goat, fish, beans or tofu. Opt for leaner choices here, as it's one of the easiest ways to cut fat from your diet. That means choosing lean cuts of skinless meat, and cutting visible fat before cooking. Step 5: Round out the meal with a piece of fruit and a glass of milk (2% MF or less), or low fat yogurt.
Another easy strategy to use when it comes to choosing healthy portions, and is a guaranteed way to cut back on how much you're eating is to use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Perhaps it's human nature to fill a plate to the edges regardless of its size - but that extra food translates into added calories. Using smaller serving dishes is a sure fire way to reduce your caloric intake. Consider using a salad plate or lunch plate for your meals instead of a dinner plate - you'll instantly cut calories. How often have you sat down at your computer with a take-away container and before you knew it were scraping the bottom of the container? Mindless eating is a major culprit when it comes to eating portions that are too large. If you're not focused on the task at hand - eating, you are far more likely to overindulge. That means taking a quick lunch break at work away from your desk, and not eating dinner in front of the television.
Speaking of containers, another easy way to sabotage healthy portions is eating directly out of a package, box or bag. Without a visual cue, it's far too easy to eat more than the recommended intake. Always serve yourself a healthy portion of food from a package before chowing down, and never eating directly from the package. And finally, eating out and ordering take away require extra precautions. Portions served in restaurants, especially here in the UAE are often three to four times the appropriate amount, which means a little self-control is needed. Opt to share a meal with a friend, or request that half of the meal be packaged for take-way before you even start eating.
Use the plate model for at least one meal per day for the next week to help you estimate portions and choose appropriate quantities of food.