THIS HANDY TOOL CAN HELP YOU TO KEEP YOUR PORTIONS IN CHECK WHILE DINING OUT AND ATTENDING SOCIAL GATHERINGS SO THAT YOU DON’T UNDO A WEEK’S WORTH OF HARD WORK ALL IN ONE NIGHT!
Portion control can make or break your weight loss efforts. You can try to eat nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods throughout the day, but if you’re not appropriately controlling the portion of said foods, it’s possible that you exceed your daily calorie goal necessary to drive weight loss.
Yes, you can gain weight eating nothing but chicken and kale.
And if you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, you won’t lose weight. Period.
If you’re serious about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, I recommend you befriend the food scale. There’s no method that is as precise and as reliable as this. However, biting the bullet and purchasing a food scale is difficult enough – asking you to then carry it in your purse, car, or gym bag everywhere you go, well, that’s just unreasonable.
That’s why I’ve detailed a handier approach to portion control that you can use while out and about to ensure you stay on track.
Are the methods below as precise as using a food scale? No.
But are they consistent? Yes.
And will they help you navigate restaurants and parties and enable you to spend more time and energy on fun rather than stressing about food?
A PALM-SIZED PORTION OF PROTEIN
Eating enough protein every few hours will help to maximize muscle growth and repair and keep your appetite in check. Regardless of your goal, you’ll benefit from eating protein every few hours. This is especially beneficial when faced with limitless options and no method to rationally portion said options when dining out of your own home. Fortunately, using your palm as a tool, you can appropriately select what you need.
Average Portion: 25 – 35 grams of protein
- Fish (salmon, tuna, tilapia, cod, herring, etc.)
- Seafood (shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, oyster, mussels, etc.)
- Chicken and turkey breast
- 90/10 (or leaner) ground meat (chicken, beef, turkey)
- Lean deli meat (chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef)
- Egg whites and yolks
- Low-fat dairy (Greek yogurt, milk, cheese)
- Game meats (bison, venison, elk)
Note: When in doubt, err on the side of “slightly more” protein to ensure you flip the muscle-building switch at that meal.
A HANDFUL OF (STARCHY) CARBOHYDRATES
Carbohydrates are everywhere.
And they’re likely the most abundant offering when dining out or navigating the appetizers at a social occasion. Having a handy unit of measure in mind when blindly portioning your carbohydrates can help you to stay on track and keep portions within reason.
Average Portion: 40 – 50 grams of carbohydrates
Eat These: Grab a handful of premium carbohydrates.
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown and wild rice
- Whole grain breads and wraps
- Popcorn (minus copious amounts of butter)
- Fruit: fresh, frozen, and canned (in water)
- Vegetables: fresh, frozen, canned (in water)
Note: Please use a serving utensil rather than sticking your hands into the community bowl of quinoa salad.
A HANDFUL OF (NON-STARCHY) VEGETABLES
A surefire way to keep your appetite in check and portions in control navigating a social occasion is to focus on vegetables. They’re high in fiber and water– two crucial elements to help keep hunger at bay. (Psst…I detail 10 more strategies to fight hunger in my new book, “A Dietitian’s Dozen Fat-Loss Tips!“)
Average Portion: < 5 grams of carbohydrates
Eat These: Stick with nutrient-dense, low-calories options.
- Bell peppers (all colors)
- Leady greens: spinach, kale, Bok choy, Swiss chard, mixed greens
- Green beans
Note: Keep in mind that potatoes, peas, and corn are starchy vegetables that contain significantly more calories (and carbohydrates) than the options mentioned above. Count these as carbohydrates rather than vegetables.
A FISTFUL OF FRUITS
Okay, this is the same thing as a handful, but I like the alliteration of “fistful of fruits…” so went with that instead.
Average Portion: 15 – 20 grams of carbohydrates
Eat These: Enjoy fresh, frozen, or canned (in water) fruit regularly.
- Berries: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
- Melon: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew
Note: These portions do not apply when selecting dried fruit. That’s because these options are highly concentrated, which means that they’re much more calorie-dense compared to a wholesome fruit.
A THUMBS UP FOR FATS
Dietary fat comes in a variety of textures that can pose quite a challenge when attempting to utilize your hand for portion control. For liquid fats (think oils) and spreads (thinks peanut butter), use your thumb as a guide when squaring away how much you’ll eat per meal.
Average Portion: 15 grams of fat
- Avocadoes (U)
- Omega-3-rich fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna (U)
- Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios (U)
- Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia (U)
- Nut and seed butters: peanut, almond, sunflower (U)
- Oils: olive, canola, avocado, flax (U)
- Animal meats (S)
- Dairy: Greek yogurt, milk, cheese (S)
- Egg yolks (S)
- Coconut oil (S)
(U) = Unsaturated
(S) = Saturated
* Three-quarters of your fat sources each day should come from unsaturated fat sources and the remaining one-quarter from saturated fat sources.
Note: When handling nuts and seeds, half of a palm is equivalent to roughly 15 grams of fat.