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DIet programs and portion control.

We were talking in a class the other day about Weight Watchers, well WW, and the new program. I have found WW to be helpful for several campers because they teach portion control. Back a long time ago, Jenny Craig and WW both had weight loss programs that involved prepackaged snacks and meals. While everything was portion controlled and led to so many success stories, they didn’t teach the transition. Once you stopped consuming the pre-packaged foods, you still overate your meals. WW has come a long way in putting a bigger emphasis on real, whole foods. Just take a look at the current list of zero point foods, it includes turkey, eggs, tofu, fruit, and non-starchy veggies, along with other foods.

Counting calories

When I lost all my weight in my 20s, I counted calories. I figured out how many calories each meal needed to be, and planned all my meals to have the same number of calories. That way, I could mix and match the order in which I ate my food. I have never enjoyed the tedious process of logging what I ate. I would much rather plan what I will eat. Make sure that fits my needs, and then that encourages me to follow my plan.

what about paleo?

That was one of my big draws to the world of paleo. You could eat all these foods, have those in moderation, and abstain from these foods over here. No counting or measuring. I have lived in America my whole life though. It is a given that we will have horrible habits when it comes to portion control. Look at the size of our dinner plates, or the number of calories in a meal at a restaurant.

I have needed to put up some safe guards when it comes to portions. I thought I’d share some ideas and tricks with you here. Some of these may work only for a short term, others may only be needed for some foods. The goal is to find what works for you, and learn to implement those ideas.

When we first adopted a paleo lifestyle in 2010, this household was rather unsatisfied, in the moment, with dinner. We had become accustomed to starchy foods at dinner that made us feel more full as we ate. I knew we were eating enough food, we just needed our brains to realize that. Then we stacked 2 little habits. We sat down to have salad, as a first course, at dinner. Salad was served with about 10 minutes left to go on dinner. As we finished the salad, we’d plate up dinner and eat that. It is worth noting that it takes about twenty minutes from the time food enters your mouth until your stomach releases signals to your brain that it is full. By sitting down and eating a salad, we start that clock before dinner is even plated.

Dinner plate size.

I mentioned earlier about the size of our dinner plates. Our brain can be very visual, which ties to two different tips. There are weight loss food logging programs out there where you take photos of your food. Research has shown that when people take the time to make their plate look pretty enough for a picture, they are more satisfied after consuming the food. The second part is the actual plate size. When my little kids were little, I started eating off toddler-sized plates. Much like making a plate look pretty, making a plate look full helps with satiety. If you don’t want to go buy toddler plates, look into salad plates to be used as regular dining plates. Use 8-ounce cups and stay away from oversized bowls. This article was written about children in school but totally applies to adults as well.

When we have put a proper size portion on our plate, the next step is to limit second helpings. I always recommend plating food in the kitchen, and serving the plates of food. If you place serving dishes on the table, and eat more “family style”, you will be more inclined to take additional servings. Some people have found success in setting a timer, and not going back into the kitchen for 10, 15, or even 20 minutes after eating.

Small meals over snacks is one way that I hack my way to eating healthy.

Picking healthy snacks put us in a cycle of finding the healthiest option to fit an unhealthy snack, but often not a healthy option. Phrasing it as a small meal changes the perspective of what we will think sounds good. If you are going to have snacks, I recommend portioning upon purchase. A serving of potato chips is 1 ounce, so the regular 8 ounce bag of chips is 8 servings. When you open a container of a complete serving and have to return to the kitchen to have more, it gives you that second chance to stop yourself. Again, back in my 20s, I portioned a lot of my food. I’d buy a big container of cottage cheese and put them in individual containers. Berries were a go-to of mine, and I’d measure them before putting them away. Even salad dressing would be measured out ahead of time. Again, allowing me to eat within my calorie goal without requiring measuring and counting calories every time I ate.

Know yourself.

If you’ve been around me for more than a few minutes, you have heard me preach that no one’s goal should be to follow this perfect plan, 100% of the time. It’s also important to know yourself. I said earlier to portion potato chips, if you would still go back and take another container, the answer may be to buy one single-serve bag of chips. You can do the same with so many foods, from candy to ice cream to cookies, to pop and juice. Generally speaking, we don’t overeat foods like romaine lettuce or cucumbers. However, portioning fruits and veggies can be a good visual to make sure you eat a full portion.

I often feel like a broken record, but pre-planning your meals can be huge in portion control. By planning the appropriate number of calories in a day, it can be easier to remind yourself that you will be fine without grabbing another handful of something.

Do you have any other tips and tricks I didn’t mention?

I’m always looking to add knowledge to share with others.