Fight portion distortion: take control of your portions!

Wow, lots of great comments on my last post!  Thank you for all the feedback and interaction., and keep it coming.

Today I want to address an issue that affects every single one of us: portion distortion.  And by that I mean that you are being served much, much larger portions of food today than people were being served 50 (or even 20!) years ago.   When you look at photos of how much bigger portion sizes have gotten, you start to understand why we have an obesity epidemic in this country:


I urge you to fight portion distortion!  Take control of how much you are eating, and learn the following 4 strategies which will help you take control of your food portions.

1.  Always, always pay attention to portion size.  It is the best way to gain control over your caloric intake. 

Most of us don’t know how to judge portion size and/or don’t bother to judge portion size.   That means that you simply don’t know how many calories you are consuming in one sitting — and it’s likely more than you think.  In study after study, researchers have found that people drastically underestimate the number of calories they consume.  This is why portion control is so vitally important to healthy weight maintenance!  Control your portions, and you control your caloric intake. 

I give you some tips and guidelines on how to judge portion size below.  However, you should also be paying attention to the nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods.  Note how many servings are in a box/bag/package.  The answer may surprise you!  For example, you may not realize that the bag of Doritos you got out of the vending machine at work has not one, not two, but three servings inside of it — meaning that you need to triple the calories listed on the nutrition label to gauge how many calories you are consuming!! 

2.  Know what 1 serving looks like.  

As Americans, we are generally very bad at judging what a serving size looks like.  Therefore, I recommend taking a “cheat-sheet” with you whenever you are going out to restaurants … and even when preparing food at home.  I like this handy chart, which I recommend downloading and carrying with you in your wallet or purse:

When you print off this chart, do 3 things right away: (1) Put an X over the “Sweets & Treats” category.  Generally speaking, these are indulgences that we should have on special occasions — not regularly.   (2) Write a note next to the “Fats & Oils” category that indicates you should have no more than 2 servings per day of fats/oils.  Try to replace butter with olive oil, which is much better for you .  And avoid mayonaisse and pre-packaged salad dressings whenever possible (mix your own oil/vinegar instead or buy all-natural salad dressings whose ingredients you can understand).  (3)  Next to the “Dairy & Cheese” category, write that you should have no more than 1 serving per day.

I also recommend printing off the above chart and taping it to your fridge.  It will help you gauge serving sizes for food that is not individually pre-packaged.  [To use, read the nutrition label on the food first to determine what a serving size is.  Then, check the chart for the appropriate serving size and pour/cut/prepare acccordingly.]  You can also use the chart below to help you:

You’ll be surprised at how much smaller your meals look when prepared according to these guidelines!

3.  Use a 2:1:1 ratio of vegetables to protein to starch.  The average American’s diet is extremely unbalanced.  We eat too much meat and dairy (the biggest culprits are red meat, milk, and processed cheeses).  We also eat too many starches (mostly processed sugary foods with little nutritional value, like white bread, potato chips, candy, and soda).  On the flip side, we eat very few fruits and vegetables. 

An appropriate meal should have a 2:1:1 ratio of vegetables to protein to starch.  And no, creamed spinach does not count as a vegetable!  A vegetable serving is either fresh, steamed, sauteed, or baked — with minimal added fats, sugars, and starches.  Your protein should be lean and not fried: think egg whites, fish, tofu, or lean white meat.  Your starch should be whole-grain if possible.  Potatoes, yams, and corn are starches – not vegetables!  Eat 1 serving of fruit for dessert, and drink water (not juice or soda) with your meal. 

4.  Eliminate calories from beverages.   There is little to no nutritional value in most juices, sodas, energy drinks, and caffeinated beverages.  In fact, they are often “hidden” sources of unnecessary calories in our diets.  Therefore, you should eliminate all soda and all pre-packaged juice from your diet.  If you have a juicer at home, you can make fresh fruit and/or vegetable juices — but remember that these juices contain calories!  Avoid the sugary juices you buy in supermarkets … and eliminate energy drinks and caffeinated beverages from your diet. 

Instead, learn to love water.  Most of us don’t drink enough of it — and many times we mistake thirst for hunger pains!  You can also try hot water with lemon, or decaffeinated herbal tea. 


Learn to control your portions, and you will learn to control your calories.  Hopefully this tips and tricks were useful to you!

As always, give me feedback and comments … and look for my next post over the next 3-4 days. I look forward to hearing from you,


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4 Comments to “Fight portion distortion: take control of your portions!”

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