Q: I’m hearing more and more about how overweight the people of this nation are becoming — both young and old. We are told to eat right, cut back on portions and eat our fruit and vegetables. I’m not in control of how much food is served. Are there any guidelines for determining portion size or hints of how to cut down on calories for someone in my situation?
A: You are hearing and reading the same things that we’ve all been hearing. Because of the many labor saving devices that are available to us we are less active, as a nation, than generations past. While our forefathers expended physical energy on everyday living activities all we need to do is push a button and a machine performs the task. Also as seniors our metabolism rate slows down and we need less food to satisfy our bodies.
Since you indicate that you are not in control of how much food is served I am led to believe that you eat most of your meals in a restaurant or restaurant-style environment.
I turned to professionals who know the ins and outs of nutrition for some hints that I could pass on to you and they provided the following information.
If you are eating many of your meals at a restaurant it is especially important to practice portion control. Most restaurants serve portions that are two to three times larger than you would prepare for yourself. When you are served too much ask to have part of the meal packed “to go.” A suggestion is to have it boxed before you start to eat — that way you won’t be tempted to continue to nibble on the extra portion.
It was also suggested that you order an appetizer or two in place of an entrée thus cutting down on the amount of food served. If bread is your downfall ask that the bread basket be eliminated from your table. Ask that salad dressings and entrée sauces be served on the side allowing you to control the amount used. Also don’t be bashful about asking how particular dishes are prepared or if you can substitute one item for another.
There are a few guidelines to help you recognize a portion size. A cup of fruit or vegetables or a medium size piece of fruit is approximately the size of a baseball. Three ounces of boneless cooked meat or poultry is the size of a deck of cards and 1½ ounces of cheese equals six dice. If you want to nibble on some nuts or pretzels a 2-ounce serving will fit in the cup of your hand. A half-cup of potatoes or rice is the size of half a baseball and a quarter cup of dried fruit would be the size of a golf ball.
After awhile just by eyeballing your plate you have a pretty good idea of the size portion or amount of food you have been served.
Another need is to remember to keep ourselves adequately hydrated. So don’t forget to drink water. If you wait until you are thirsty you have already started to dehydrate. Just make it a habit to drink water throughout the day.
Exercise is also important to keeping fit. It doesn’t have to be any more than walking but we should all try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a minimum of three times a week. If you can’t find time or can’t do 30 minutes at a time don’t forgo it — break it up into shorter time periods.
We need to take care of ourselves both mind and body and reducing stress is a big part of taking care of ourselves. In addition to proper nutrition and exercise make sure you get adequate sleep. Try to find time each day to do something for yourself that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be for a long period of time as long as you get enjoyment from the activity.
Focus on the present and future and don’t waste energy worrying about the past. Last but not least try to find humor in a situation. Laughter is a powerful tool and a good belly laugh does wonders. It is even better if you can laugh at yourself!