Header image: Healthy living portion sizes

As we discover more and more about the link between diet and wellness, it’s becoming obvious that healthy living starts with the foods we consume. 

What we eat, how often we eat and how much we eat are the foundation of good health, fueling our ability to remain vital and active during retirement.

It’s essential.

It can be difficult to eat right on some days, though, as we rush through our priorities and multitask. Food choices are often based on convenience, rather than mindful choices that put our health first. But even on the busiest day, taking a few seconds to consider portion size can have immediate impact.

Choosing just one of these three ways to instantly reduce portion size can improve your health while making it far easier to manage a healthy weight.

1. Eat on a salad plate, instead of a dinner plate.

Serving meals on a salad plate, rather than the typical large dinner plate, can easily reduce portion sizes by as much as 50 percent. Because there is less room, a fully loaded plate will have far less food on it than a larger one can hold, even if you aren’t thinking about portions as you scoop food onto the plate.

Storing dinner plates in a different cupboard or the garage can help you remember to use the smaller plates, too, while keeping them available for entertaining or family visits. If the kitchen only has salad plates available in the cupboard used most often for tableware, you’ll automatically grab the right one.

If you’re eating at a restaurant, asking for half of the meal to be placed in a to-go box before they bring your meal to the table can accomplish the same purpose. The act of separating it into two meals makes the diner less inclined to overeat.

It also helps an older person easily scale down their food consumption as their activity and metabolism slows, and the body’s calorie demands change.

You just might find yourself surprised by how little your body notices the difference. Since restaurants typically serve oversized portion sizes, the reduced amount will probably be ample.

2. Never, ever eat from a container.

It’s all too easy to sit on the couch with a bag of potato chips, grab a spoon for “just a bite” of ice cream or eat from a larger dish of leftovers, only to find most of it gone before you realize what’s happening.

Distracted eating makes it extremely difficult to keep track of portion size and even a healthy snack can lead to amazingly high calorie counts.

Instead of eating from a container, it’s important to look at the recommended portion size on the packaging, serve that amount into a bowl or on a plate, then put the remainder away before you eat.

Consciously giving yourself the right amount ensures you don’t get carried away.

The plate is a visual cue that once it’s empty, you’re done.   

If you find yourself struggling to stick with the correct portion size as you serve yourself from the container, separating foods into individually sized portions when putting away your groceries can help. Using snack-size bags or small plastic containers make snacks easy to grab when you’re on the move.

3. Drink a large glass of water before every meal, including snacks.

It’s easy to forget the importance of water, but dehydration is a leading cause of hospitalization for older adults. Drinking water before every meal isn’t just a smart tactic to feel fuller and consume less when sitting down to a meal… it ensures hydration isn’t overlooked.

Plus, since thirst can be easily confused with hunger, the urge to snack might disappear altogether.

Adding foods that contain a higher percentage of water into your diet can also help. According to CNN, “Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content is good for you not just because of the nutrients they deliver to your body, but also because they can improve your hydration.” And they don’t come with a ton of calories. It’s a win all around.

Are you interested in nutritional counseling to better understand healthy eating and portion sizes, or to lose weight? Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing provides nutritional counseling (also known as Medical Nutrition Therapy) to help improve your health that may be covered by Medicare or health insurance, as well as low out-of-pocket fees for these services. Contact us today to learn more!     


(Originally published  Nov. 3, 2018; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)

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