#345 Portion Control!
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In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.

Benjamin Franklin

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7 Tips for Portion Control

By Joe Wilkes

The big news in nutrition this past week was a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study covered cookbook recipes over the last several decades (with emphasis on recipes in The Joy of Cooking), and it was discovered that calorie counts have gone up dramatically as authors have increased portion sizes to conform to new cultural norms. Where the 1936 edition of the kitchen classic averaged 268 calories per serving, the most recent 2006 edition averaged 384 calories. Lower costs of food and larger plate sizes are theorized as part of the reason for the increase, but nutritionist Marion Nestle says that mainly it's just a reflection of people becoming accustomed to eating more and more overall. What can we do to monitor and control portion sizes? Here are some ideas . . .

Small Portion of Food, Water, and Food Storage Containers

  1. Downsize your plate. One issue the study pointed out is that the average plate size has grown over the years, and the amount of food served on those plates has kept pace with that increase. Instead of breaking out the big dinner plate, try eating your dinner off a salad or dessert plate. The smaller plate will make the amount of food look larger by proportion, a visual cue which will trick your brain into thinking you're eating more. You can also trade in your big dinner fork for a more petite salad fork, which will slow down any shoveling behavior that might occur at the dinner table.

  2. Food in ContainersDivide and conquer. When you're cooking more than one serving of something, immediately store the prospective leftovers in single-serving containers. By putting out the entire dish, you run the risk of there not being any leftovers at the end of the meal. Depending on what the meal is, I divide my food onto two plates—one for that meal and one for lunch the next day. And as a side benefit, this can help you tighten your wallet while you tighten your waistline.

  3. Count it down. If you eat your reasonably sized portion of food in the dining room/living room/den/bedroom/bathroom, etc., and leave the leftovers in the kitchen, it will make this next step a lot easier. Here's the scenario: You've finished your first portion, and yet you still want more. This is far from atypical, especially if the big plate of leftovers is sitting in front of you, tempting you, calling to you—maybe just a half a spoonful or maybe just a pick at the serving platter with your fork (just the good parts, of course). That couldn't possibly have more calories, right? Wrong. The calories from the food you sneak in after you finish eating are as potent as the calories from the food you're served. The good news is that if you can hold off, you won't be hungry for long.

    After you have a decent-sized portion of food, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to get the message from your stomach that you're full. So try this: Before you reach for seconds, glance at the clock on the wall or your wristwatch. Spend the next 20 minutes chatting with your dining companions, or if you're eating alone, check out the newspaper, read a magazine article, or play along with a round of Jeopardy on TV. Then, after 20 minutes, see if you're still starving for another bowl full of whatever. Chances are that your cravings will have disappeared. If they haven't, maybe you do still need a little more food to achieve satiety. Review what you ate before, and if the calorie count seems low, treat yourself to a little extra. Or, if the calorie count seems about right or high for a regular meal and you're still hungry, fill up on some low-cal veggies or have a big glass of water. Sometimes it's easy to confuse thirst for hunger.


  4. Smallest PortionsEmbrace your inner child. And we don't mean have candy for dinner . . . When you're on the road or out for dinner, don't be ashamed to look at the kids' menu. As the adult menu has been supersized to gluttonous proportions, the children's menu often has the most nutritious options. Check out Debbie Siebers' portion-control tips below, and you'll see that oftentimes the amount of food in a kids' meal is just the right amount for an adult watching his or her figure. Not to mention, if you play your cards right, there could be a free toy in it for you. Out of the mouths of babes . . .

  5. Sharing is good. And while we're getting lessons from the small set, how about sharing? If you're a foodie like me, the hardest part about eating out is passing up all the goodies you want to try on the menu. Instead of ordering too much for yourself, strategize with your fellow diners about how you can maximize the variety of the food instead of the quantity. Most restaurants will be more than happy to provide you with extra small plates so you can split dishes. And make sure you actually split them! Don't dine out with your friend who survives on a nibble here or there and split two dishes; you'll end up eating 80 percent of the food on the table while he or she makes do with a couple of forkfuls. In case you ever wondered how Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi keeps her model physique while judging up to 12 meals a week, the secret is that she doesn't eat everything. Also, when you're figuring out how to eat family-style, make sure that at least one of the dishes is a healthy salad, a non-cream-based soup, or a vegetable dish. That way you and your family can get full without getting fat.

  6. Nutrition LabelLearn your weights and measurements. As anyone who's a regular reader of this newsletter knows, we're always going on and on about reading labels. And as important as the calorie, carb, protein, and fat numbers is the serving size. This is where the corporate food interests get you a lot of the time, by adjusting the serving size downward to make the nutritional numbers look a little better. As anyone who's recently spent a Saturday night alone with the TV can tell you, the estimate of four servings in a pint of Ben and Jerry's or Häagen-Dazs is wildly optimistic. Whereas the label would indicate a 300-calorie serving, keep in mind that the entire container has 1,200 calories. And since most of the containers taper downward, eating what appears to be half of the container can actually amount to two-thirds.

    It's definitely too much of a hassle to weigh and measure everything you put in your body every day. Even the most anal-retentive people among us don't have the time to be hauling out the scale and measuring cups for every meal. But it's worth it to at least familiarize yourself with a few standard weights and measures. Try learning what an ounce, a gram, and a tablespoon, etc., look like. That way you can at least eyeball how much you're eating. I've yet to meet the person who can make a typical bag of potato chips last for twelve servings.


  7. Give yourself a hand. For an easy guide to portion sizes, follow this guide from Slim in 6® creator Debbie Siebers.

Handy Portion-Control Guide

By Debbie Siebers, creator of Slim in 6®

To achieve weight loss, it's crucial to really understand what a portion is. Here's a trick: use your hand as a guideline to portion sizes.

Palm = Proteins
Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in animal products, like fish, meats, and cottage cheese. Some veggie sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh, and wheat glutens.

Thumb = Fats
Fats are important but also very dense, so match portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc.
Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember that whole grains are always preferred.

Hand = Veggies
Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That is a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and contain very few calories.

Related Articles
"10 Ways to Fight Obesity"
"10 Healthy Snacks for Couch Time"
"10 Foods You Should Eat"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 2nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Nutrition 911, Part III: Deciphering Marketing Jargon

By Steve Edwards

Welcome to Part III of our oh-so-basic nutrition class designed to give you an overview of basic nutrition and make healthy eating much simpler. First, we had an introduction, which was followed by a very simple analysis of what you should eat. Today, we delve into the tricky world of marketing.

Farm

These days, the topic of what's in food is probably less important than what you're likely to hear about food. People can go for years without discussing their diets, but it's practically impossible to go a day without hearing terms like organic, omega, or carb. Upon hearing one of these terms, you've found evidence that advertisers have used their market research tools and, thus, determined that they need to shove these words down your throat, especially since you probably have no idea what they mean. You see, as long as you don't know what they mean, they can spin them however they like. Spin: it's not just for politicians anymore. But these terms do have meaning. And once you understand them, they can help you make smarter food choices.

Foods without labels

Some foods don't require a label, which makes them harder to spin. These are mainly very fresh and haven't been tampered with so, in general, they are your healthy alternatives. The spin doctors here play both sides of the fence. When it comes to non-labeled foods, the important issue is how these foods were raised.

When it became clear that the reason certain companies could offer lower-priced goods was because they used inferior raising methods, those who didn't use inferior methods began using terms to help distinguish themselves. When this affected the business of the former, they jumped into the fray and the spin games began. But that's getting ahead of our topic. Let's begin by defining which foods don't require labels.

AppleFirst are foods like apples, oranges, broccoli, and many other things that you can buy in the state that they come from the earth. Known as fruits, vegetables, and herbs, they're entirely different than that soda you just bought with "real fruit flavor." These foods have parts that aren't really foods, either. Called fiber, it's the indigestible part of a plant. It has no nutrient value, but it's still an ultra-important part of your diet because it does all kinds of things, including cleaning out our digestive tract and soaking up excess cholesterol. It's very important that our diets feature plants. They are loaded with nutrients and fiber and have no man-made ingredients (okay, some have pesticides, which we'll get to in a minute). When we do things like cook or make juice from these items, they lose their nutrients and fiber, and get a label.

Next are grains and legumes. Things like rice and beans—also plants—these foods have more protein and calories than fruits and veggies. They are less easily found in their natural state. Rice, for example, often has its shell stripped, so it's white. Grains get turned into breads and crackers, often at the expense of their healthiest ingredients. Beans get smashed and have things added to them. As a rule, the closer you can get a legume or grain to its original state, the better it is for you.

Finally, we have meats and dairy products. Nowadays, unless you live on a farm, you probably have to buy these with labels. That's mainly due to suspect growing and harvesting practices. This topic is mainly one for Politics class, but we're going to look at the consumer end of it next.

Hey! What are you rolling your eyes at? Yes, you, the guy in the white suit taking up two seats. What are you dressed like that for? Going to the Kentucky Derby after class? Well, pal. I believe that this subject concerns you more than anyone, so pay attention.

These animal products are loaded with protein, vitamins, and sometimes carbs and healthy fats. But we need to be careful with them because meats (other than fish) and dairy products have a lot of saturated fat. You can buy all of these products with much of this fat removed. For the most part, this is recommended, which we'll cover in the "fat-free" portion of the lecture later on.

Organic and other terms for natural foods

Now it's time to get to some good jargon. You've heard all of these terms, probably while you've been considering buying any of the aforementioned food items. But just what do they mean?

Organic LabelOrganic. Organic means living, so organic foods are supposed to be alive or, at least, recently alive. Originally, "organic" meant produce that hadn't been sprayed with inorganic things, like pesticides. But now you'll see "organic ingredients" in boxed, jarred, and canned foods, which can be confusing. Organic was once a term used only by the folks who showed up at your weekly farmers' market. Then, word started to get out about large-scale farmers spraying nasty pesticides on their crops, pesticides that would still be on those crops when we bought them. Most people are pretty sure they don't want to eat something made to kill animals, so when the little "organic" guys' businesses started to feel the impact, the big guys just started slapping an "organic" label on anything, until the government had to step in.

Now we have an imperfect system. Organic rules can be fudged to some degree, but it seems to be getting better and not worse. It's made the large growers a bit more cognizant about what they add to or spray on their crops. Organic has also trickled up. So now packaged foods using "organic ingredients" are labeled as such. But be prudent because the fine print will tell you how much is organic. Lobbyists haggle over how much organic stuff needs to be in a product for the word "organic" to appear on the label, and the amount has changed and will continue to change. So you can see a product with a big "organic" on its label with very little organic inside.

Also, many farmers claim that organic growing remains behind the times. They argue that their products don't seem to grow as healthily using organic standards because the classification needs reworking. This is no doubt true, as we'll probably never be able to create a perfect system.

Bottom line: "Organic" on a label is probably better, but you should read the fine print. The more concerned the farmer or rancher, the more information they want to provide. A company that spends a lot of effort to list its practices is probably better than one that won't go to the trouble. As a general rule, those going out of their way to meet organic standards probably care more. It's not perfect, but buying "organic" still stacks the odds in your favor.

Grass-Fed CowGrass fed. Cattle were once all grass fed. They lived on prairies and ate grass, 'cause that's all there was to eat. On the prairie, that grass is nutrient rich because of the soil. Cattle that ate it grew big and strong, and when we ate them, we grew big and strong. Then, some guy figured out that cattle, if they had to, would eat grain. This meant he could build houses and strip malls on the prairie, put the cattle into little fenced areas and feed them grain, and make a lot more money. The downside was that grain didn't have the same nutrient value (like eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of broccoli), so the cows weren't so big and strong. To make them look like they once did, he started shooting them with things like steroids, so that the cattle started looking like Jose Conseco, and all was good in the world. Except that when we ate the cattle, they didn't have the same nutrient value. This meant we ate the same calories with less nutrient value. When this happened, we got fat.

For a while, we were none the wiser. Then, people started getting sick and dying because some genius, low on grain, started feeding cows parts of other cows mixed with the grain to make more money. Cows aren't carnivorous, like animals with sharp teeth, so this didn't work well and bad stuff like E. coli started showing up in meat. Anyway, feeding cows other cows is now against the law, but lobbyists were also able to make a deal in which it's nearly impossible for meat companies to be sued, so who knows what they're actually up to.

Bottom line: Even though meat lobbyists have been hammering away at the "grass fed" requirements, it still means that the meat is likely to be much better in quality.

Free range. Cattle weren't the only animals out on the prairie. Birds were there, too. In fact, birds were all over the place because they have wings and can, you know, fly. This became problematic when folks decided they wanted to raise them on farms. You listening, Colonel?

ChickenFiguring that if birds couldn't fly and, well, they would then need no space at all, "farmers" started loading them all together in tiny little pens. Irritated—naturally—the birds would peck at each other and cause general turmoil, so good ol' Foster the farmer put them in little cages wherein they couldn't get at each other—for their entire lives!

Since this isn't Animal Cruelty class, let's just talk about how healthy these birds are when they grow up and we eat them. When you get out and exercise, how does that help you? Hmm, since some of you can't answer this, I'll tell you. You get healthier. Your body systems work better and you get more muscle. Muscle is meat, like the part of a chicken that we want to eat. If you sit in a small room for a long time, how do you tend to look or feel? Answer: You get fat. You get sick. You die young.

Take two chickens. Let one run around and eat stuff it finds growing out of the ground. Put the other in a 2-foot-square box and feed it junk food. Which one do you want to eat?

Bottom line: Only eat free-range fowl, which is harder now than ever to find because new grades of distinction have surfaced. Again, to stay on top of it, you'll need to stay educated. To reiterate, the more concerned the company, the more likely they will want to educate you.

Farm raised. This term has to do with fish. For those of you who are confused, that is natural. Fish live in water. We live on land. How the heck do we farm them?

FishThe obvious answer is to put them in big aquariums, but that would be too expensive. Instead, they raise fish in fenced-off areas and treat them a bit like the birds mentioned above. This tends to cause a lot of damage for the ecosystem in general, but this isn't Environment class. We don't offer environment classes because they don't help your standardized testing. Anyway, the effect on the fish depends a lot on the type of fish. Some, like catfish that naturally live in sluggish conditions, do okay, while others, like salmon, do terribly. In fact, salmon are migratory and swim for most of their lives. Keeping them in a "tank" wreaks havoc on their lifestyle. Farm-raised salmon don't even have red meat, like they do naturally, and are dyed red for market. Do you really want to eat fish that's been dyed red?

Bottom line: Avoid farm-raised fish when possible. Always avoid farm-raised salmon.

Local. Some of you are no doubt wondering why this rather boring-sounding label is taking up more shelf space lately. After all, isn't the gourmand taught to eat from exotic and far-off lands? Who, with ample means, wouldn't always opt for Maine lobster, Norwegian caviar, and water from New Zealand?

Farmers' MarketOne concerned for the health of the planet might be the obvious answer. You don't have to be Al Gore to deduce that using 500,000 gallons of gas so that you can sip from a melting glacier near Christchurch might create a ripple effect with negative implications for the planet. But, hey, this isn't Earth First 911; it's Nutrition 911, so let's stay focused. Buying locally allows us to play watchdog. It's easy to check out your local dairy. Just ask around. You don't even need to research. Good businesses tend to get talked about in the community. And if you suspect that a local business is wielding a bit too much power and influence over your neighbors, that's probably all the information you need. But your local Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureaus, and independent news organizations are keen to help out should your scuttlebutt network not be broad enough.

Bottom line: Local companies should always be considered first.

Ah, there's the bell. I hope you'll feel a bit better next time you walk into your local market. But we're not finished. Fat and carbs, two words known far better for their colloquial rather than literal meanings, will be covered next time.

Related Articles
"Nutrition 911, Part II: What to Eat"
"Nutrition 911"
"Coldwater Fish, the Top Superfood"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 2nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!


Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.


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Test Your Peanut IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

We've all read the news this past week that peanuts make excellent carriers of salmonella, but what else do you know about this recently beleaguered legume?

  1. South AmericaFrom what continent do peanuts originate? Peanuts originated in South America, where they have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought them back to Europe. Currently, the largest producer of peanuts in the world is China, followed by India, and the U.S. is a distant third.

  2. How much peanut butter does the average American eat each year? The average American eats about 3 pounds of peanut butter every year. Marlon Brando was an avid peanut butter fan. It was rumored that after visits by the actor, his hosts would discover emptied peanut butter jars in their kitchens.

  3. On average, how many peanuts does a typical 18-oz. jar of peanut butter contain? On average, it contains 850 peanuts. It's because of this that about half of the Georgia peanut crop goes to making peanut butter. Peanut butter is not as popular in the rest of the world as it is in America—two-thirds of the international peanut production goes to making peanut oil, which is very popular in cooking due to its high smoking point (the temperature at which it begins to smoke).

  4. Why does peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth? Peanut butter sticks because of its ability to almost instantly absorb moisture due to its high protein content (30 grams per cup). It's like the ShamWow® of food! This may also explain why it is a secret weapon for removing chewing gum from fabric or hair.

  5. John Harvey KelloggWho invented peanut butter? Contrary to common belief, it was not George Washington Carver. There is evidence that the ancient Incans created an ancient mash, and John Harvey Kellogg, the cereal magnate, marketed a nut butter in 1890, years before Dr. Carver's famous experiments at Tuskegee University, where he discovered over 300 uses for peanuts, as adhesives, ink, fuel, and cosmetics, among others. His research revolutionized agricultural practices in the southern U.S.


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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"great article i think honesty is the best policy poisoning natural food with questionable ingredients is not"

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"I see there's 7 steps to portion control to lose weight or control your weight for increasing, but what if you want to gain weight. This might sound weird, but some people wanna gain weight with muscle mass and I'm pretty sure by eating. You guys whould have a topic on gaining weight, too."

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"Thought provoking and hopefully habit changing. Nutitionally, envirenmentally and economically, this information is important, but not often available. Good read, better if applied."

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