How to Eat Less: Becoming Portion Aware
Staff Profile: The No-Time-for-Snack-Time Working Mom
“By the time I get home from work at night, I’m starving.” - Kristen Schaefer Geisler: Age: 36, photo director, Cooking Light, New York, N.Y.
Kristen is careful about what she eats during the day—egg white omelets, fruit, healthy soups. But after she finishes lunch, she doesn’t eat again until after 8 o’clock. “Dinner is a free-for-all because I’m superhungry by then,” she says. Kristen is healthy and happy with her weight, so she’s not so sure why she should even think about reining in hernighttime portions, which she estimates are 50% of her daily calories. “My husband is 6'2", and I’m 5'6". And we eat the same amount. It’s like my reward at the end of the day because I’ve been eating so healthfully.”
For people like Kristen who spend all day being restrained in their food choices, freedom is a big, steaming bowl of pasta or oversized piece of pizza. While her weight isn’t affected now, that type of eating will probably catch up to her as her metabolism slows with age. So Kristen needs help convincing herself (and her husband) to try smaller portions, and she needs to incorporate more snacks throughout her day so she isn’t ravenous come dinnertime. Managing portions often starts with managing hunger.
- Start snacking. Distributing calories more evenly over the day helps your body better digest and process all the nutrients in food. Kristen will likely have more focus at work and extra energy for her son when she gets home if she makes a goal of enjoying a midafternoon snack. Plus, if she isn’t so hungry at dinner, she will likely eat less.
- Pick portion-friendly snacks. Bake a batch of our Tuscan Lemon Muffins; divide them into portable snacks for work. This lower-calorie alternative has almost 300 fewer calories than vending-machine varieties, plus it has 4g of protein, which helps fill you up quickly and provides sustained energy. If you have easy access to a fridge, precut fresh fruit is a quick snack, as are chopped veggies. Dip them in a Greek yogurt mix, like our Four-Herb Green Goddess Dressing or Black Bean Hummus—both have a healthy serving of protein.
- Or have a homemade smoothie. Our Peanut Butter, Banana, and Flax Smoothies have more than 9g of protein but only 229 calories. (A similar drink at a smoothie bar has more than double that amount.) Whip up a batch in the morning, pour it into a to-go cup, and refrigerate until you’re readyfor it; shake to re-blend as necessary.
- Have a drink. People often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you don’t drink anything between lunch and dinner, you’re probably thirsty. Sip a glass of iced tea or wind down with a low-cal cocktail before eating. Studies show that if you use a tall, thin glass instead of a short, wide one, you’ll pour less (which translates to fewer calories).
- Plate your own meals. While your husband may need an extra spoonful to help fulfill his daily calorie allotment, that same amount may send you teetering over the calorie cliff. Let your hubby serve himself, then serve yourself a more appropriate portion.