Chef Kendra is back with advice on a realistic and troublesome issue that we all deal with on a daily basis—consuming the right portion sizes. Many of us in America have grown up hearing the words "you aren't leaving the table until you clean your plate." And that's where things get confusing. Rarely do we take into consideration that the portion sizes we're being served when we’re out are actually too large and we shouldn't be eating every little thing that's put in front of us—including the bread basket, appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert! Read Kendra's advice to help control your intake while dining out.
I was recently sharing my belief in a plant-based diet with meat being an occasional add-in with one of my clients and she was discussing her daily consumption consisting of a low carb diet including diet soda, meat, low carb vegetables, and low carb fruits. We then moved on to talk about our love for fish (finally, agreement!) when she mentioned she easily eats a pound of salmon at dinner. I almost fell off the stool where I was sitting. A POUND?! Aside from my personal belief in a plant based diet (and there are many articles and scientific studies touting the extreme benefits of such), I was seriously aghast that this woman thought eating a pound of anything in one sitting, especially animal protein, was something your body could handle and that it was good for you. She looked at me like my reaction was that of a lunatic, and she tried to seriously convince me (chef with a nutrition degree) that this was ok.
Then I realized it's likely there are many people who don’t really know what a proper serving size is. Do you know most restaurant portions are three to four times larger than what we should be eating? Do you have any idea what a single serving of cereal is? It’s one cup by the way. Or do you know that a proper serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards? We really do need constant reminders of what healthy portions really are since we are continually bombarded with larger than life servings of meals.
Studies show that even when given something that doesn’t taste good, for example, stale popcorn, people still eat more when given a larger portion (really, how many times have you said, “take this away from me; I’m full but I’m eating because it’s in front of me?”) So, what can we do about this? Because we are not going to wake up tomorrow with restaurants magically turning out proper portion sizes, we need to educate ourselves! With the right knowledge you can help redefine how you see food and understand what a true portion size is. Then you will eat less. It is scientifically proven.
Here are my helpful tips to arm yourself with when battling the portion size war.
Order two appetizers for your meal. I do this all the time and it’s nice because you get two different dishes. I bet you’ll be full when you are finished!
If you order an entrée, tell yourself the most you will eat is half. Because most restaurant portions are three to four times the size of a normal portion, if you mentally prepare yourself for taking at least half home, you are preventing the desire to clean your plate to signal the end of the meal.
Take your time. Enjoy your meal. French people are, for the most part, leaner than Americans because they take their time eating (their portion sizes are also smaller than here in America). And even though they eat less food, they actually eat, on average, longer than Americans, savoring the food rather than gobbling it up.
Turn away the bread basket. Unless you are somewhere that carries the most unbelievable award-winning bread. And if that is the case, take one piece and then ask the server to remove the temptation.
Keep measuring cups near things that you eat on a regular basis. My good friend and fabulous dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner, recommends putting a one-cup measure inside your cereal box. This way you can scoop out the right portion. You can do the same thing with rice, pasta, and dried beans.
Tape a printout of portion sizes to the inside of one of your cabinets. It’s difficult to remember all these measurements, so make your life easier with a visual.
Here is a handy graph from the USDA showing common household items in relation to a portion size of specific food groups. This might be a good thing for you to tape inside your cabinet to reference.
Signing Off Paying Attention to Portions,
Renee & Kendra
Kendra Peterson is a chef enjoying the culinary delights of Chicago. She is the owner of Drizzle Kitchen, a gluten-free private chef service which provides weekly meal service to clients that range from professional athletes to busy families to actors. With a degree in nutrition and a taste for all things delicious, Kendra and her team have been able to help their clients discover that eating gluten-free is not only easy, but also satisfying and delightful. Kendra is working on her first cookbook and keeps busy with ballet classes, brunch with friends, and traveling.