Back to

LET’S FACE IT: TODAY’S SUPERSIZE PORTIONS CAN LEAD TO SUPERSIZE JEANS. TO HELP MANAGE YOUR EATING AND WEIGHT, TRY THESE QUICK TIPS.

Consider this: Two-thirds of today’s Americans are obese. But back in the 1970s, just 14 percent were. Experts point to one factor that’s made a big difference: portion size.

The truth is, Americans have a lot more on their plates in home kitchens, restaurants and elsewhere. A recent study that compared recipes from the 2006 version of Joy of Cooking with the classic cookbook’s 1936 edition, for instance, found an average calorie increase of 63 percent per portion.

On a similar mission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sized up portions of common foods. Some telling examples: A bagel of 20 years ago was 3 inches in diameter and had 140 calories; today’s 6-incher has 350 calories. Twenty years ago, a cheeseburger had 333 calories; today’s whopping cheeseburger has 590 calories.

Looking for ways to curb overeating and keep your portions reasonable? Experts offer the following advice.

  • Know the difference between a portion and a serving. A portion is how much food you choose to eat. A serving, such as those marked on food labels, is used to calculate a food’s nutritional value. Trouble is, serving sizes are often smaller than people think. A standard 7-ounce baked potato, for example, is three servings.
  • Spoil your dinner. If you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack to avoid gobbling down too much during your next meal.
  • Try using smaller plates—it makes a little look like more. Research suggests that eating on small plates helps people to eat less.
  • Eat mindfully. Take time to enjoy the texture and taste of food—and let feelings of fullness kick in.
  • Avoid distractions. Nibbling while watching TV, driving or reading makes it less likely you’ll notice how much you’re eating. If you do eat or snack in front of the TV, don’t eat straight from the bag; instead, dole out what you plan to eat into a bowl or container.
  • Write it down. Record what you’re eating in a daily food journal. It can inspire you to cut down on overeating and pinpoint problem edibles.
  • Practice portion control when eating out. Split restaurant entrees with a friend. Or ask your server for a “to-go” box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports on Health