Does squeezing into your workout tights feel like a feat of gymnastics? Before you swear off everything but baby carrots, consider this: The culprit behind weight gain may not be what you’re eating, but how much. Since the late ’70s, we’ve added 570 calories a day to our diets, and half of them can be attributed to larger portions. Even though today’s serving sizes can be more than triple what the USDA recommends, they’ve become our new normal and anything smaller can seem puny by comparison. Fortunately, having strong visual aids, can go a long way toward helping you shift your mind-set, according to Mark and Stephen Gray at The Double Vision Conditioning Centres. Once you know what right-size portions look like, selecting them will become second nature. The best part? You can downsize your plate — and your weight — without giving up the foods you love.
Standard size: 3 cups, cooked
Better-for-you size: 1 cup, cooked
Calorie difference: 440
Many restaurants offer lunch- or half-size portions. Don’t see a smaller serving on the menu? “Ask to be given just one cup of pasta and have the rest boxed up before it’s brought to the table. Special requests are pretty standard nowadays, and most waiters are happy to accommodate them.
Standard size: 2 ounces
Better-for-you size: 1 ounce
Calorie difference: 154
Snack sizes are often twice as big as they were 30 years ago and even though the labels on the bags may say they serve two or more, many people polish off the entire contents themselves. One of the most popular snacks, crisps, may contribute more to long-term weight gain than many other foods or drinks. A study in the New EnglandJournal of Medicine found that for every additional serving of crisps a person consumes daily, they gain nearly two pounds every four years.
Choose baked as opposed to fried crisps to get more food (about 23 crisps versus 13) for fewer calories. If you prefer the classic version, opt for a one-ounce package or split a bigger bag with a buddy.
Standard size: 12 ounces, cooked
Better-for-you size: 3 ounces, cooked
Calorie difference: 572
When it comes to beef, most chefs have had a bigger-is-better mentality. Most serve 12-ounce strip steaks — more than double the amount of meat you should eat in a day.
A lot of chains now offer six-ounce sirloin steaks or fillets that cook down to about four and a half ounces and clock in at 350 calories. Shave 50 to 100 calories off that number by asking the waiter to have yours made with very little or no butter brushed on top.
Standard size: 1 cup
Better-for-you size: 1/2 cup
Calorie difference: 270
Eating directly out of the carton means you may well keep going until you hit the cardboard at the bottom. If you’re indulging in premium ice cream, that can be the caloric equivalent of a double cheeseburger, plus a whopping 20 grams of saturated fat — nearly your daily maximum.
Dish out a single serving, and use a small bowl and spoon. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that doing so could shrink your helping of rocky road by about 30 percent. At the ice cream parlour, get a cup or a cone with a single scoop rather than a sundae or milkshake, which can contain roughly 1,400 to 1,700 calories.
Standard size: 7 1/2 ounces
Better-for-you size: 5 1/2 ounces
Calorie difference: 84
Mixed drinks frequently contain 42 percent more alcohol than a standard one-shot drink would. We’re more likely to tip well if we’re served a generously poured cocktail, and bartenders are banking on that. But what you’re really getting is a little more alcohol and a lot of sugary, high-calorie mixer, which makes the hard stuff go down so easily that you’re ready for another glass sooner.
Switch to beer, wine, or liquor on the rocks (with just a splash of juice or club soda), all of which bartenders are less likely to over pour. By not diluting your alcohol with sugary add-ins that mask the taste, you’re more likely to sip it slowly rather than guzzle it. At home, use a shot glass to ensure you’re serving yourself the right amount.