Whether your biggest pitfall is licking your plate clean, mindlessly snacking on chips in front of the tv or obsessing over carbs, your problem is actually the same: portion control. Adults tend to finish 92 percent of the food on their plates, so the answer to your weight loss woes may be in making sure you allow yourself the right amount at each meal without feeling like you're deprived of food. Try these simple tips to eat the appropriate amount of every food for weight loss or maintenance.
1. Eat a nearly no-calorie side at every meal
You may be tempted to dive right in to your protein, but you should begin each meal by eating a full serving of a low-calorie vegetable or fruit. Celery, carrots, tomatoes or cucumbers are less than 30 calories each per serving and your body will start to fill up on this healthy, low-calorie side as you move on to the heavier foods.
2. Don’t start with carbs, top with them
Instead of totally changing your diet, just rethink the way you eat your go-to foods. For breakfast, enjoy a yogurt parfait topped with granola rather than using the carbs as the base. And on stir fry night, add a cup of cooked brown rice to your plate last instead of scooping out a bed of it. This will keep your portions in check while still allowing you to enjoy those tasty ingredients within reason.
3. Ditch the dinner plate
If you were taught to finish your plate at each meal, you were likely taught to load it with food, too. This could spell bad news for controlling your portions. If you can’t kick the habit, eating your meals on a smaller salad plate will help you understand what accurate serving sizes look like! You’ll still feel the sense of satisfaction from finishing your meal, but you won’t overeat on accident.
4. Divide any food that comes in a bag
Just as you wash and prep your produce after hitting the grocery store, spend a few minutes dividing up any food you bought in a bag into separate baggies or containers. Snacks like pretzels, air-popped popcorn or even dried fruit won’t wreck your weight loss, but it certainly will if you eat a family-sized bag in one sitting! Make your own perfect portion bags for all these tempting snacks and enjoy them in healthy moderation.
5. Limit your options
When there are 3 meats and 17 sides at your holiday feasts, chances are you’ll feel pressured to try them all. When cooking your own meals, limit your menu to a protein and a maximum of two sides (including the low-calorie veggie!) so you aren’t tempted to indulge in too many foods just because they’re on the table.
6. Invest in a food scale
No, a food scale isn’t one of those useless kitchen tools you added to your wedding registry when you ran out of ideas; it’s a crucial tool to measuring your portion sizes, particularly for meats. A true serving of chicken should be between 4-6 ounces, but the chicken breasts you buy at the grocery are upward of 8 or 9 ounces. Learn basic knife skills to butterfly your chicken, then measure it with your scale to ensure you’re putting just the right amount on your plate.