April 23, 2009

Q. I know that eating large portions has contributed to my 10-pound weight gain over the past two years, but I don't know how much to eat. When I make a casserole for my family, what is my serving size? It's hard to stop eating when there's a large dish of food in front of you.

A. Rather than bring the whole casserole to the table, dish out a portion for each family member while you're still in the kitchen, suggests Baltimore dietitian Roxanne Moore. "That way, if you really want seconds, you'll have to get up."

You'll be less likely to want seconds if you eat slowly, giving your brain the necessary 20 minutes to receive the signal that your stomach is full. "Instead of having a rushed family meal, slow down and enjoy the conversation," Moore says. Also, don't make the casserole the sole offering. Serve cooked vegetables or a tossed salad with lots of veggies; these high-fiber side dishes will help you feel full.

As for how large your casserole servings should be, that's tough to answer without knowing the ingredients. You may want to take this and other recipes to a registered dietitian, who can determine the calorie content and suggest serving sizes based on the rest of your diet.

To learn more about portion control, check out the Web site for the government's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (www.usda.gov/cnpp). You can download the Food Guide Pyramid and related information about serving sizes. However, as the site indicates, many of the serving sizes provided with the pyramid are smaller than those on food labels. For instance, one serving of cooked pasta, rice or cereal is 1 cup on the label but only 1/2 cup on the pyramid.