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Understanding Portion Sizes for Long-Term Health

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Obesity is a systemic disease. Not only does it affect our waistline, how we feel and what we do, but it can also contribute to a host of related diseases known as comorbidities. From diabetes and heart disease to gallbladder problems and even hernias due to added abdominal pressure, it affects every part of our lives. Obesity has even been linked to certain forms of cancer including esophageal cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Most of us understand that over the years, portion sizes have become bigger and bigger. Indeed, many of us have never seen appropriate portion sizes in a restaurant. We’re often told that we must limit our portion sizes for, say, a piece of meat, to 3 ounces. But how much is that? Realistically, it is hard if not impossible to measure every piece of protein we eat – especially in a restaurant. However, we can either approach the quandary scientifically or train ourselves to estimate portion sizes by sight.

So, how do we go about making sure our portion sizes are correct?

Common Estimating Tools:

Meats including steak and chicken should be about the size of the palm of your hand – as for thickness, most cuts of meat are about the right thickness, but feel free to correct slightly for very thick or very thin cuts. 3 ounces of fish is just a touch bigger due to lower density of the meat. A cup of cut fruit or vegetables is about the size of a baseball and so forth.

Mail-Order Food Services

One commonly overlooked option is mail order food services – these may include the likes of Blue Apron, Home Chef and more. Typically, these services send you raw ingredients (which you have to cook) that are about the right portion size. Services such as these can make it very obvious that we are overeating. Figure that about a month’s worth of these meals can help you figure out about how much is the “right” portion size.

The Precise Method

There’s no substitute for precision and getting a kitchen scale is a low cost, easy way to start seeing what kind of portions you should be eating. Be sure to account for the weight of non-food items by zeroing out the scale with the plate or cup on the scale by itself.

Further, when buying your proteins from the store, they can usually be cut to order. Asking the store to cut a piece of steak, fish or chicken into appropriate portion sizes can give you the right amount of food and buying a few portions in advance means you can enjoy it for a few days. The store may even have pre-packaged frozen portions that you can easily thaw and prepare.

Now that we have an idea about determining portion sizes, here are a few tips to minimize overeating:

  1. Be sure you are fully hydrated. Drinking lots of water eliminates head hunger, which tricks your body into eating when, actually, you may be thirsty. But remember that you should drink only 45 minutes before or after a meal – a helpful tip whether you’ve had bariatric surgery or not.
  2. Don’t each straight out of the packaging. Be sure to plate your meal beforehand.
  3. Use an app to track your consumption. Seeing what you are eating and your remaining caloric budget for the day is a great way to limit yourself.
  4. Avoid artificial sweeteners – yes, they have zero calories, but they have proven to increase hunger nonetheless.
  5. And here’s a big one for those of you that enjoy going out to eat – split the meal. Common plates at fast casual restaurants can top 1000, even 2000 calories when you account for all the sides, sauces and condiments. Splitting these plates with someone at your table can make a “calorie bomb” much more manageable.

So, remember, portion sizes are key to losing the weight and staving off a host of diseases and conditions that can trap you in a never-ending cycle of procedures and treatments.

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