Can shrinking our waistlines be as simple as bringing serving sizes down a notch? That can help, according to Consumer Reports.
Follow these techniques to help train your brain to recognize and stick with healthy helpings of food.
Using portion control as your primary healthy-eating strategy allows you to eat almost any food while keeping calories in check.
Scoop and pour. Pull out some measuring spoons and cups to dole out precise portions of your favorite foods for a few weeks. You might be surprised to see that a serving of the cereal you eat most days is ¾ cup, while filling up the bowl to what looks like a reasonable portion puts you closer to 2 or 3 cups. (For a guide to serving sizes, go to choosemyplate.gov.)
Share with a friend. When dining out, start with your own healthy appetizer, such as salad or soup, and split the entrée. It’s also wise to go halfsies on extras, like a side of french fries or dessert. Consumer Reports suggests slowing down so you can enjoy each bite.
Watch your portions of healthy foods, too. Plenty of nutritious foods, such as almonds and dates, are also high in calories. And when people think that a food is good for them, they underestimate calories, according to a study from Cornell University.
Resized portions will seem small only if they’re not satisfying. By favoring satiating foods, you can feel full from smaller servings.
Focus on fiber. Simply choosing foods that are rich in fiber can help fill you up. In one study, increasing fiber intake to at least 30 grams per day for 12 months helped 240 adults who were at risk for type 2 diabetes lose almost as much weight as people who followed a more complicated diet that specified exactly how many servings of carbs, vegetables, and protein to consume. Fiber-rich choices include beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Curb your appetite. Take the edge off your hunger with a healthy appetizer; that will help you limit yourself to that 1-cup serving of cooked pasta. A salad before or during the meal helped people eat 11 percent fewer calories overall, in a study in the journal Appetite.
Take smaller bites. That can help you keep portions in check. For example, research from the Netherlands found that people who took tinier sips of tomato soup ate about 30 percent less than those who gulped it.
Supersize the salad. It’s difficult to find fault with a heaping bowl of raw vegetables. So in addition to the standard lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers, add asparagus, beets, or whatever vegetables you like. Watch out for the extras, though — cheese, croutons, wonton noodles, and, of course, dressing can catapult a salad’s calorie count into double-cheeseburger range.
Eat veggies family-style. Measure out carbs (like potatoes) and protein (like steak) to control portions of higher-calorie foods. But put vegetable side dishes on the table so that people can help themselves to abundant servings of those filling, low-calorie foods.
Increase portions with produce. Not sure a half-cup serving of cooked rice will fill you up? Round it out with vegetables. For example, add 1 cup of chopped fresh spinach per serving of rice for a bulked-up but not weighed down side dish. (Mix the spinach into the hot rice as it finishes cooking, stir, and cover the pot for 1 minute. After the heat wilts the greens, stir again before serving.)