If you are looking for ways to improve your diet this summer, why not start with paying attention to exactly how much you are eating?
The portions you are dishing out can impact your diet as much as the types of food you are choosing.
Portion size is grossly misunderstood in our country. We are conditioned to seeing excessive food portions both at home and eating out. Because each of us comes from a complex and unique background, our food preferences are just as diverse. Depending on our gender, culture, religion, and race, the fabric of our very being is woven with perceptions and misconceptions of food from a young age. Identifying these connections and establishing healthy boundaries with food prevents us from abusing it.
Avoid Haphazard Eating
According to Food Psychologist Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, most of us “don’t overeat because we’re hungry. We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.” Our food preferences are heavily influenced by the types readily available and convenient to us. Change destructive eating patterns by identifying scenarios that encourage excessive eating. Putting yourself in a compromised position with food at all-you-can-eat buffet spells disaster if you are prone to overeat. Decrease your exposure to “trigger foods” that are known to sabotage healthy eating plans, in order to regain control of portion control. Wansink suggests avoiding pitfalls by identifying “your diet danger zone — meal stuffing, snack grazing, party binging, restaurant indulging, and desktop dining.”
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice proper portions through conscientious, conscious eating and it will become second nature. Train yourself to understand a healthy relationship with food, even if it means a measure of discomfort in the beginning. This exercise is as imperative as practicing any other discipline. Muhammad Ali didn’t achieve his place in boxing history by haphazard chance. He had to train himself to maintain focus and hone his craft, repeatedly visiting the gym until he intimately understood his body and how it responded to the demands of the sport.
Dare to Prepare
Set yourself up for success from the start of each week with healthy summer fare. Organize your meals and plan accordingly. Pack lunches and divide large quantities of food into smaller, portion-controlled ones. An appropriate serving of meat is three to four ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards. ½ cup of rice or pasta is about the size of a tennis ball. A portion of fruit is about the size of a baseball. An ounce of cheese looks like two dominoes. Don't allow yourself to skip meals, only to overeat at the ones that follow. Thoughtfully enjoy your food and aim to eat six small meals throughout the day instead of gorging yourself with two or three large ones.
Good habits beget good habits. Practice quality and quantity control in your home and implement “small, stylized changes that fit with your life” so they are realistic, obtainable goals your family can maintain long-term. Teach your kids a balanced relationship with food by increasing their portion size awareness and healthy eating will become a way of life.