Summer 'Break' Your Bad Habits | Torrance Memorial

Published on July 10, 2021

Summer 'Break' Your Bad Habits

Summer is here and with it often come desires to shape up when it comes to health and eating habits. Let your Torrance Memorial dietitians help you make healthy lifestyle changes as we address common bad habits to break this summer!

healthy cooking

Habit #2: Habitually Consuming Excess Portions

It’s Friday night and you’re cozied up on your couch enjoying your favorite TV show with a family-sized bag of chips. You reach your hand into the bag again, definitely losing count of how many chips you have eaten. You glance at the nutrition facts label and realize you’ve probably eaten at least five times the suggested serving size. We have all experienced this type of "portion distortion" at some point which often brings feelings of shock, confusion, and even guilt. Understanding that bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to portions, can help you take steps toward a healthier way of eating and managing your weight.

Controlling portions tends to feel impossible in the environment we live in today. Food packages packed with multiple servings, all-you-can-eat food buffets, super-sized meals, and extra-large restaurant plates all distort our perception of appropriate portions. Research shows that when faced with larger portions, people unintentionally consume more calories. This can lead to consistent excess calorie intake that can be detrimental to your health by being a risk factor for obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and sleep disorders. Controlling portions is one of the best ways to monitor your calorie intake and keep meals balanced. A healthy goal is to eat a reasonably sized meal that fits within your specific calorie and nutrient needs.

The portions of food you need daily depend on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. The USDA's "MyPlate" (www.myplate.gov) provides guidelines as to how much of each food group you should consume. You can create a "MyPlate Plan" that estimates your specific needs and daily recommended intake. Balancing your meals using all the food groups including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy, and a small amount of fats and oils can help ensure you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Keep reading for additional tips on how to control portions and avoid everyday excess calories.

Top 5 Ways to be Mindful of Everyday Excess Calories:

  1. Split entrées at restaurants. These days, meal portions at restaurants are typically enough to serve at least 2 people. This can be counterintuitive for many people who grew up with the mindset that they shouldn’t waste food. However, in many ways, eating when you’re not hungry is a waste too. Therefore, go into a meal with the mindset of splitting the entrée, either with another person, or immediately pack up half of the meal in a to-go container. It would be less wasteful to share your meal or save some for later.
  1. Set aside leftovers. Monitor your hunger at home by serving smaller portions. After serving yourself, put the leftovers into food storage containers immediately. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t eat any more, but before you go back for seconds, ask yourself, “Am I even still hungry, or would it be better for me to save these leftovers for another meal tomorrow?”
  1. Eat off smaller plates, and don't eat from the bag. An easy trick is consuming foods off salad plates and out of cereal bowls instead of entrée plates or large soup bowls. This tricks your mind into thinking you're eating more than you actually are and gives you a more realistic sense of proper serving sizes.
  1. Eat without any distractions. Eating when you're distracted guarantees that you'll overeat! If you don't take the time to pay attention to what you're putting into your mouth, it's tough to recognize when you're full. Avoid eating in front of the TV or other screens. Instead, try to taste your food and truly enjoy what you're eating.
  1. Portion your food using your hand as a reference. Your hand can be a convenient portion guide to remind you of appropriate serving sizes. The size of your palm for protein, a fist-sized piece of fruit or grain, one cupped hand for ice cream or cooked veggies, two cupped hands for raw veggies, or a thumb for dressing, peanut butter, or cheese. This can be quite a “handy” tool for help with portion control!

If you have questions or are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707.