Did you say, “Just A Bite?”
Susan Asanovic, MS, RD, Food and Nutrition Consultant, La Table Dans Le Bon Sens, Wilton, Connecticut, tells how she teaches portion control to clients.
When is a bagel not a bagel? When it’s a bacon’n egg bagel, weighing in at four and a half ounces, with 430 calories, seven grams of fat, 990 mg. of sodium, 13 teaspoons of sugar and 60 mg. of cholesterol. This is why my clients have such a hard time reporting and estimating the foods they eat. Bagels used to weigh half that much, have no added fat and no added sugars.
Lecturing to clients that a serving equals three ounces of meat, poultry or fish, a half cup of vegetables or fruit, a cup of yogurt or greens, and an ounce of cheese, isn’t much help. I don’t expect them to buy a scale and tediously weigh everything. So, I offer the following visual aides: three ounces of meat or poultry are about the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of a woman’s hand; one half cup of vegetables, rice or pasta is about the size of a small fist; a cup equals a large man’s fist. The tip of your thumb is a small serving (one teaspoon of peanut butter or mayonnaise); three thumb tips equals a tablespoon. A handful is one opened, cupped palm and equals an ounce of nuts or raisins; two handfuls are an ounce serving of chips.
For packaged items, you simply follow the Nutrition Facts label size: one serving equals a slice of bread, three cookies, or as indicated. Once my clients have internalized serving size it becomes automatic. A cup of yogurt or chopped raw greens is about the size of a small hand or a tennis ball, and an ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb. Now, take your thumb, a tennis ball or a deck of cards to a restaurant and see how many fists fit into those portions!
I tell my clients to buy a few frozen entrees like Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, and then to use the amounts as guidelines for home-cooked or restaurant meals. How many of you are still hungry after these frozen meals? Most people expect more food so they go on to eat a few doughnuts or candy bars. One client just buys two dinners. I suggest they eat no more than the serving size appropriate for their weight goals and then if still hungry, add raw or steamed vegetables, rice, fat-free whole-grain breads or fruit. (Or add two cups of brown rice to each serving of Chinese takeout and eat the way the Chinese really do.)
The pitfalls begin when eating out or ordering in, which has become the norm, not the exception. Our ideas of serving size are taught and internalized by what a restaurateur puts on the plate, not by nutrition sense. Restaurant portions have ballooned out of control to Gargantuan proportions. They unabashedly advertise 20 ounce steaks and all you can eat buffets. A portion of lasagna, vegetarian or not, can weigh eight to twenty eight ounces; fat content is impossible to guesstimate; a plate of innocent-looking pasta here could often serve four in Italy. European portions are more reasonable, and Americans returning to the States, comment on how meager the portions were. But value doesn’t mean quantity. I suggest doggie bags or sharing one order between two people and paying a service charge for a second plate.
Another source of overkill are the trendy menus in upscale newspaper style sections or food magazines. Very frequently portions are double or triple the above standards with enough protein and fat for an entire day, but are considered normal because they are published.
Once clients understand the principles and pitfalls, they will usually become very ingenious and successful at portion control.
Shopping for Portion Control
Jacqueline Marcus, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Nutrition Consultant in Northfield, Illinois has these tips for grocery shopping with portion control in mind.
Busy, weight-conscious consumers should focus their purchases on single portion servings, meals and entrees. Some Healthy Choice and Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine entrees e.g.: Healthy Choice Cacciatore Chicken and Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics Chicken Mediterranean, provide about 250 calories, less than 5 grams total fat and 500 milligrams of sodium per serving. These can be made into more satisfying meals when served with hearty salads and raw or steamed vegetables.
Label reading pays off. Reference Amounts Consumed Per Eating Occasion are guidelines for serving sizes by the FDA/USDA, which all manufacturers must declare on food labels. They may be smaller than consumers are accustomed to eating but they are good for helping people reduce their caloric intake.
These guidelines have made it easier to compare products; however, some other things on my wish list include: drop the fractions, standardize more packages, illustrate serving sizes on containers and color code commonly consumed portions.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.