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Portion Control: How to Train Your Eyes to Control Portions

  By posted Jul 30th 2012
Diet & Fitness

 

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Reading the serving size on the nutritional label and measuring the proportion is the only way to measure correct proportions of your meal. But, what about those times when you are running late for a meeting and looking at the nutritional label is the last thought that comes to your mind? In order to manage desperate eating times like these, today we present to you a little trick, which you can memorize and make sure that you are not eating triple the amount that you should eat – and that is to train your eyes to control portions. 

First of all, let us gain an insight over the importance of weighing and measuring portions

Sheela Krishnaswamy.
In most people, quantity of food intake is a habit. This doesn’t matter as long as the quality of food intake is good and the individual’s health parameters are under control. However, for those who wish to control their quantity of food (for example, a person who is trying to lose weight) measuring their food intake helps.    

Neelanjana Singh.
No matter how healthy a diet is, if one eats too much or too little of any food it can pose a problem. With growing portion sizes it has become easy to misjudge quantities and overeat. Overeating due to inaccurate portion sizes is the commonest pitfalls of diets today leading to obesity and related problems. Understanding portion sizes are important also because one likes variety in foods.  Adjustments are crucial not just to suit the palate but also for getting in the required nutrition. For instance, many people are surprised to know that one bread slice can be substituted with only two tablespoons of cooked rice if one wants to maintain the calorie and carbohydrate content of the meal.

Keep those measuring cups within eye-sight in the kitchen.

Sheela Krishnaswamy.
Cups, spoons, bowls, glasses, etc are common measures that a dietitian would refer to while teaching the patient to eat sensibly. Weighing each food is cumbersome; therefore household measuring tools come in handy.  It’s easier to control the quantity of food intake when you measure the ingredient in the kitchen. Easiest example in this context is oil.  Most people pour oil straight from the can or bottle into the kadai. However, if a teaspoon is used to measure and pour, the quantity is very easily controlled. 

Neelanjana Singh.
In order to get some idea about portion sizes of food it is best to weigh the items. However, this may not be a very practical method. Here is a more practical approach to deal with the concept of portion sizes. Just observing and comparing the portions to everyday articles such as a golf ball or a deck of cards seems to do the job quite well.

Standard practices that will help you train your eyes to portion control.

Sheela Krishnaswamy.
 In India, we don’t follow the western standards of measuring food items, thus given below are some standards that are followed by most practicing nutritionists and dietitians. 

 

  • Serving Size of Fruit –varies from fruit to fruit.  1 small apple or 1 medium orange or 1 medium pear or ½ banana or 1 slice papaya or 1 cup chopped melon would be 1 serving. 
  • Medium Piece = Size of Baseball
  • Serving Size of Meat – ½ chicken leg or 1 slice fish or 1 egg or 5 to 6 pieces of mutton is a serving.
  • 3 ounces = Size of a Deck of Cards
  • Serving Size of Cheese – 3 tablespoons of paneer is a serving. 
  • 1 ounce = Size of Four Dice


Innovative way of measuring food!
Have a look at this link interactive food portion sizes and understand how ideally, practically and effectively train eyes to portion control. But again, perhaps this website makes sense for the western population. But in India where food habits and dietary intakes are different and diverse, we cannot apply all of that information in our country. As of now, we should ideally use measuring spoons, cups, etc to control our food portions, not only while eating but also while cooking. If these measuring devices can replace our hands (‘andaaza’ as we put it in India), we can keep better control on our quantity of food intake, thereby helping us control our health better.  

Neelanjana Singh.
Most of us are aware that a healthy diet should include at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables in a day. However, what amount constitutes one portion can be confusing. One cup or one medium fruit such as an apple would be the size of a baseball (or a woman’s fist) makes one portion. If the size of the apple is larger than that it would contribute to another portion. Whereas, just  1/4 th cup( size of a golf ball) of dried fruits such as raisins makes one portion of the fruit allowance. In the meat food group, one portion of chicken or lean meat constitutes approximately 3 ounces which is the size of a deck of playing cards. In the dairy food group, one cup yogurt or 8 ounces is the equivalent of a baseball. One and a half ounces of hard cheese which is the size of 3 large playing dice makes one dairy portion. This technique is called “eyeballing” portion sizes.

In order to exercise portion control it is considered a good idea to take out the permitted portions on to a plate and then start eating. Keep the extra servings out of sight! Interestingly, using smaller plates (such as a salad plate) has  also be found to be useful when trying to control  portions.

Sheela Krishnaswamy is a Bangalore-based Registered Dietitian and Wellness Consultant, and Neelanjana Singh is the Chief of Dietetics and Nutrition Consultant at PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.

*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images

 

 

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