Though we may be well-aware of the importance of appropriate portion sizes, it's still easy to let the amount of food we eat get away from us. A little too much here, a little too much there, and pretty soon the calories begin to add up. And we all have different challenges when it comes to proper portions. Here we identify common "portion personalities" and offer tips to combat the portion problems of each.
For example, you might be an All-Day Snacker.
Portion Problem: Snacks go straight from box or bag to mouth. A handful here, a handful there...who's counting?
2 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
All-Day Snacker Solutions
3 of 12Illustration: Andrew Bannecker
Portion Problem: Buy meat. Cook meat. Eat meat. But the meat packages at PaleoMart are not portioned for individual servings.
4 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
Here's the beef: Cuts at supermarkets look like cuts at steak houses—too big. Even leaner tenderloins average about 8 ounces. Grill your steak of choice, let it rest a bit, and then thinly slice. Take a few pieces for dinner (weigh them until you can eyeball the portion), and save the leftovers for lunch. One 14-ounce steak will yield 3 full servings of meat.
Slice a 10-ounce supermarket chicken breast in half lengthwise into two 5-ounce cutlets (they'll cook faster, too). Or try a thigh, a smaller, juicier choice with only 1 additional gram of sat fat per ounce.
Try the smaller-plate trick. Those smaller cuts won't look so diminutive on 8-inch lunch plates.
Buy bone-in. Bones take up space and weight (and sometimes add flavor), so there is less meat to eat.
5 of 12Illustration: Andrew Bannecker
Portion Problem: Candy is never far from reach. Pans of brownies slowly disappear sliver by sliver. Ice cream travels from freezer to sofa via pint-sized container.
6 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
Sweet Tooth Solutions
If you like candy bars, buy a bag of the mini size. 1 regular-size candy bar equals about 9 minis, which can easily be divided into 3 calorie-reasonable snacks.
Precut goodies in the pan or pie plate. An 8-inch pan divided into 16 pieces yields a brownie with 44% fewer calories than a pan divided by 9.
Hide the candy. Out of sight, out of mind. Better yet: Put your stash where you have to walk to get a handful.
Mini ice-cream cups are perfect ½-cup portions. If you prefer to dip from the gallon container, use a scoop (it dishes out a ½-cup serving).
7 of 12Illustration: Andrew Bannecker
Portion Problem: Both work and social life involve meeting for drinks, hanging at bars, having wine before dinner...
8 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
Social Butterfly Solutions
The USDA recommends no more than one drink a day for women, two for men. That's 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Most bars use 1.5-ounce shots, but if yours doesn't, just ask. If you're having more than one, alternate with seltzer and lime, or spiced-up tomato juice.
Another use for that shot glass: It holds one portion of mixed nuts (170 calories).
For beer, sip an 8-ounce glass of craft-brew draft. It's much more satisfying than two ultralight pints, with about the same amount of alcohol.
Wine with dinner? Restaurants like to pour liberally and equitably around the table. Either order by the glass—asking for 5 ounces—or tell the sommelier to go easy.
9 of 12Illustration: Andrew Bannecker
Portion Problem: Caveman's counterpart under-estimates the calorie count in carbs.
10 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
Granola Guy Solutions
A box of pasta serves 8 to 10 people, not 4. One cup of cooked noodles is one serving. Load your plate with salad first, and then add the pasta.
Pour cereal into a coffee mug instead of a bowl, and you'll be less likely to overeat. It's the right vessel for a serving of cereal (which varies; check label) and ½ cup low-fat milk.
A typical hoagie or sub roll is three to four servings of bread. Hollow out the center, and you'll cut that almost in half.
When brown-bagging, make sure you're using a zip-top sandwich bag. At 5 inches square, sandwich bags are sized right for loaf bread. Quart-sized storage bags measure 7 inches—too big.
11 of 12Illustration: Andrew Bannecker
Portion Problem: Great cook. Adds ingredients and serves everything by sight and taste.
12 of 12Photo: Randy Mayor
Freehanding the oil can add 240 calories to a dish—a lot if it's supposed to serve only two. Use a measuring spoon until your eyeballing is accurate. Ditto with butter.
And ditto with salt. When we asked 12 people to freehand a pinch of salt, they added 180mg of sodium on average, 500 at worst. Work on your pinching, and don't pour directly from the salt container—keep a pinch bowl on the counter.
Know your sodium sources: fish sauce, sambals, pickles, etc.
Buy one of those nifty little digital scales. It's truly an eye-opener to see what an ounce of Parm, an ounce of bacon, and an ounce of chocolate look like.
Portion carbs onto plates—rice, pasta, whole grains, mashed potatoes. Know what a serving is, and use a measuring cup.