What is On That Plate!? Healthy Eating Hacks

How Much You Eat Matters as Much as What You Eat

There’s an obsession with counting calories and checking serving sizes that has been driving us all insane. And instead of helping us lose weight, and help us become fitter and leaner, it has pushed us closer and closer to the brink of an epidemic which is known in the medical world as obesity.

Young and old, obesity has infiltrated our lives in one way or another; affecting us personally or a loved one. And it isn’t just about the numbers popping up on the scale. Obesity increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and many other types of chronic illnesses.

Serving vs. Portion

Let’s start by differentiating between serving, or serving size, and portion.

A serving is what can be found on a food product’s food label, or Nutrition Facts, on the side of the package. It’s a suggestion of how much you should eat of that particular food product. Each product has different serving sizes and uses various measurements, such as cups, grams, ounces, slices, or pieces. There’s also a servings per container on the label which gives you an idea of how many servings are there in the entire package.

A portion is the amount of food you eat per meal. It could be directly from the box, or how much food is on your plate at home or at a restaurant. More often than not, the portion of food you decide to consume won’t match the serving size provided for you on the food label.

What to Eat?

Knowing what to eat is easy. Most people know what’s good for you and what’s not; we just sometimes try to pretend we don’t – because we want to indulge. Some of us believe we should eat healthy foods 80% of the time and indulge in 20% of the time without feeling any guilt. I don’t really go by that philosophy. It’s really nothing more than giving yourself an excuse to eat whatever you want at least one day per week, and you’ll never form healthy habits. Or, you’ll have extreme difficulty doing so. Soon the 20% will become 30%, then 50% and more. It also gives the impression that what you choose to eat is out of your control.

That doesn’t mean you have to strictly adhere to your way of eating 100% of the time. You just need to make a choice regarding what is right to eat at any given time If you go to a party, you can certainly decide that you are going to dip into the cheesy appetizer; however, it is a choice made at the expense of everything you are working hard to achieve. You decide. Is it worth it?

I like to look at my food life in 24-hour rolling blocks. I eat clean and plant-based. If I decide to eat something that is not clean, I understand that I made that decision and look back 12 hours and forward 12 to see how I can get the 24-hour block aligned with my eating plan. I don't view it as "good" or "bad" - it's simply a decision that I'm making. Depending upon choices I made during the prior 12-hour span, I may decide to go plants only for the next 12, or I may be able to other clean eats to balance out my 24-hour block.

How Much?

The problem now, however, has become not what to eat, but how much should I eat? Even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation.

How much food we can consume at each meal is different from one person to the next based on age, gender, weight, metabolism and how active that person is. If you work out regularly, you’ll need more calories than someone who leads a more sedentary lifestyle. Or if you’re in your twenties, your metabolism will be working faster than someone in their fifties, which means you may be able to eat larger portions without worrying all that much. As you age, though, your pattern needs to change. All else being equal, people in their fifties may need to eat less to maintain their weight.

Here are a few tips to help you quickly figure out your portion sizes both at home or on the go:

  • Use smaller dishes. It may sound simple, but you’ll be amazed at how easily your brain accepts that you’re eating less. And you won’t even feel you’re doing it.

  • Use your plate as a measuring tool. For example, if you’re eating salad, that should take up ½ your plate. Protein and complex carbs should take about a quarter of your plate. And if you’re eating foods high in fats, that should only be ½ a tablespoon.

  • Use your hands. It’s not an exact science, but the size of your hands usually corresponds to the size of your body. So, protein should be roughly the size of 1 palm for women and 2 palms for men; vegetables and foods rich in carbs should be about a fistful for women and 2 fistfuls for men; high-fat foods should be about the size of a thumb for women and 2 thumbs for men.

  • Avoid eating straight from the container. Measure out the serving size in a bowl instead.

  • Always start each meal with a glass of water.

  • Avoid eating while standing up or while you’re being distracted by something, as a phone call or the TV.

  • Always focus on how your food looks, smells, tastes as you purposefully chew each bite. Practicing mindfulness will help you reevaluate your relationship with food. It will also feel full quicker, and most importantly, satiated and content.

The bottom line is that it’s important to have a healthy relationship with food. Just like in any relationship, neither side should have the upper hand. There should be a sense of balance and respect without that negative hold that food can sometimes have on you.