Usually the idea of portion control makes me want to give up and go get a cupcake. Who are these people trying to make me give up my Friday nights with a bottle of wine and so much pizza. (SO much pizza!)
If we’re going to be completely honest and open here, Aaron and I absolutely struggle with portion control. We almost didn’t write this post due to our love for some serious portion uncontrol. But ultimately, we decided that this is exactly why we should discuss this topic.
We both try to focus on sticking to a proper and sustainable diet throughout the week and cheat a little on the weekends. Is it true that you can completely undo all of your hard work with one bad weekend? Yes! Does that mean that you should be discouraged when Monday rolls around again? No Way!
Think of these as your Sunday-Thursday guidelines and try not to overdo it on the weekends.
step 1: Remember your fractions
I get pretty frustrated when I think about all of the math I learned in middle school that has vanished from my memory. Not fractions though. I use those little suckers daily. When it comes to portion control, there’s no exception. Think of your plate as a nice pie chart (math for the Mathletes! Woot!). Try to break that chart up into 4 parts and get as close to this breakdown as possible: 45% vegetables, 30% carbs, 20% protein and 5% fat. If you’re like me, you see that part about 30% carbs and you get reallllllly excited. But don’t loose your cool at the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet just yet. Step 3 will cover the kinds of carbs we’re actually referring to here.
The reason I love this portion control process is because I’m always excited about at least one thing on my plate. I typically crave savory foods, so sometimes spicing up my vegetables with salt and some spices actually make healthy foods worth eating. Think about your cravings. What can you buy at the store that will satisfy them?
Cheese/dairy cravings? Add two tablespoons of feta to a salad. Don’t forget to add a TON of vegetables, your protein and your carbs.
Salt cravings? Chicken sausage or any ground meat can fix this when prepared correctly (add a little salt if there’s not already a ton of sodium in your meat).
Sugar cravings? Add fruit to your meal!
step 2: eat with your hands
We don’t mean throw away the utensils (although, it turns out foods have the same amount of calories whether you eat them with utensils or not!)
So many diets will have you measuring exact portions of everything you eat. You might even notice some diets recommend you purchase a food scale. If you want to get that specific, that’s great! But, if you’re more interested in fast and easy portion measurement, you’re in the right place, friend!
You can use your palm, hands and fist to roughly measure the amount of food you should eat for each meal. One serving of protein is about the size of your palm. A serving of vegetables is the size of your fist. A serving of carbs can be measured with a scooped hand. And finally, a serving of fat is about the size of your thumb.
Step 3: keep it simple
Quick and easy portion control is all about finding the foods you enjoy and preparing them in a way that makes you excited to eat them. Keep a list of foods you enjoy on your refrigerator so that shopping days are less daunting. Even if you like to make your meals fancy, make sure you’re using the suggested percentages and portions of each food group listed above. Here are some healthy examples from each food group:
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent making creative and elaborate grocery lists. I finally realized that I KNEW what I wanted to eat after work on the weekdays. And it certainly was NOT a grand spectacle. I found that my chances of eating a healthy meal declined with the amount of ingredients and time it took to cook a meal.
Here are some ways to keep your fridge and freezer stocked with easy, healthy choices all week long:
- Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the beginning of the week. Shred it up and put it in an air tight container right when you get home from the store. Then, voila! You have chicken for tacos, salads, and sandwiches in no time.
- Stock up on steamable veggie packets. Frozen veggies are one of the best, easy ways to eat your veggies. Freezing doesn’t take away any of the nutrients or add sodium like canning does. And, even if you don’t finish them in a week, they stay nice and fresh in your freezer.
- Make mini meatloaves or meatballs with lean ground beef or ground turkey. Just mix the ground meat, an egg, some breadcrumbs and shredded zucchini. You can put a tablespoon of tomato sauce on top and bake in the oven in a muffin tin. You’ll know they’re done when the middles are no longer wet.
it’s really all about you
The thing is, especially as you’re starting out, it’s unlikely that your diet will look like anyone else’s. Why? Because you’re you. And they’re them. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Getting on track isn’t just about starting to eat a specific lineup of healthy foods. We believe that’s unsustainable. Take these three portion control steps and develop a plan that works for you. And make sure you actually like it!
3 easy steps for portion control
Step 1: Remember your fractions! They’re not just things you learned in middle school. Consider your plate for each and every meal. Are you getting enough vegetables? Are your healthy carbs on point? If not, remove or add as needed.
Step 2: Eat with your hands. Your best measurement tools are your hands! Never mind the food scale or the measuring cups in your drawer. Roughly measure the recommended portion of each food group and move on with your day!
Step 3: Keep it simple. Pick your faves from each food group and stick to them! Do you really like chicken? Buy a couple pounds, throw them in your freezer and then make your favorite recipes. Sick of chicken? No prob! Pick out another item on the list!