While it may be tempting to jump into the buffet line and see how much food can fit onto a single plate and into your stomach, the true way to gauge how fit your meals are is with portion control. Portion control is a way of balancing your meals – ensuring you have the right amount of protein, carbs and even fats and sugars in your diet. Portioning your plate is a simple yet effective for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Below are 10 ways you can bring yourself to a more balanced diet.
- Section your plate – With an imaginary line as your guide, cut your plate into portions of three. The biggest section is what you want filled with grains, such as whole-wheat bread or pasta and brown rice. Be sure these grains are whole-wheat and avoid white grains like white rice or white bread. Brown grains are higher in dietary fiber and can keep you full longer.
- The second portion of the plate is what you put your fruits and vegetables in. Be sure to consume plenty of these, as they are high in vitamins and minerals essential for various systems in your body.
- The third section will include proteins, such as meats including chicken, pork, and even fish, nuts, and beans. This section will also include dairy, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- If you exercise regularly, the ratio between carb and protein may vary. Prior to a workout you may have more carbs in your meal to help maintain energy levels, while after a workout you may have more protein-heavy meal for muscle recovery and repair.
- Keep it colorful – Fruits and vegetables are essential to preserving all-around health. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, while providing you with many necessary vitamins and minerals to keep your bodily functions operating at peak levels.
- Measure your portions – It’s important to measure what you’re putting in your body. Take advantage of measuring cups, spoons and food scales when you can, and when you can’t, at least take the time to estimate. Use simple objects as a reference to measure your portions, such as a tennis ball equating to roughly the size of one cup.
- Use smaller dishes – People tend to mentally measure how full they are based on how empty their plate looks. Therefore, it may be a better idea to use smaller dishes to help psychologically help you consume less. It’s also a better idea to serve food on portioned plates, rather than family-style on the table, which encourages people to take more food than they should eat.
- Eat until satisfied, not full – “You should only eat when you’re hungry”- that sounds simple enough, right? Many people choose to eat when they’re bored or that the food was sitting there, tempting them. You should only consume food when you’re hungry and eat till you are satisfied, which isn’t necessarily the same as being full. A good method to use is to stop eating when you feel about 80% full, the body is usually satisfied by that point, and there’s always snacks to look forward to if you’re starting to feel hungry again before your next meal.
- Read nutrition labels – Knowing what you put in your body is the first thing you should focus on when building your plate. Based on your own personal goals, determine if that food is truly good for you and how much of it you should consume. Not sure how to read nutrition labels? Check out our Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels.
- Turn off the television – Sitting in front of the television with your eyes glued to the screen, can result in mindless eating. TV (and other distractions, such as reading or playing on your phone) can distract you from the amount of food you’ve consumed. Tuning out any distractions can help you focus more on what you’re eating and what your body is telling you.
- Share a meal when eating out – Plates and meal sizes at restaurants tend to be bigger to encourage customer satisfaction in feeling full. A solution to making sure you don’t eat too much is to share a meal with whomever you’re dining with. To boot, you can be even split the check, helping you save money.
- If you are eating out alone, don’t be shy in asking for a to-go box. Most restaurants offer to-go boxes free of charge, and given that most meals are so large, the average person can’t finish them in a single sitting, it’s best to not waste the meal and keep it for lunch the following day.
- Avoid seconds – Getting seconds prompts you to eat twice as much as you planned on eating, which means double the calories. Instead, aim for making your (hopefully small) plate full for what you think you can consume.
- Eat 5-6 small meals a day – While it may seem counterintuitive to eat more meals to promote a healthy diet, the keyword lies in “small” – that is “5-6 small meals.” While the meals are small, they serve to help curb cravings and overeating as you are constantly feeding your body energy. These meals will include your usual breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while the meal sizes will be smaller, you’ll consume snacks in between each meals, like trail mix, a cup of yogurt, and freshly squeezed and blended juices and shakes.
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