In today’s world, there are so many food choices out there that are cheap, convenient, and plentiful. A lot of these choices are also not the best for you health wise. Healthy choices are often times more expensive and spoil easier making the prepackaged and heavily preserved foods popular choices. Today, I want to focus not on what we eat but how much we eat. It is obviously always better to pick healthier choices, but it is also very important to watch your portion sizes. The amount of food and drink we are served as part of a “meal” in most restaurants continues to increase. What used to be a large cola is now considered a small. It is OK to eat the unhealthier foods occasionally as long as you watch how much you take in because it is very easy to over eat. Below are some tips to help you keep your portions and waistline under control.

— Use visual cues- One serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. A serving of carbohydrates is about the size of a hockey puck. For fruits and vegetables, a serving is about the size of a tennis ball. For cheese, a portion is about 4 dice sized cubes. For fats like mayonnaise a portion size is about the size of two dice.

— Check the menu before you go out or order- Most all places now have nutritional information available at the restaurant or online. Plan what you are going to order and look to see how many servings of fat, sugars, protein, etc. and how many calories are in those dishes. This allows you to be aware of how much you are taking in and track how many servings of each type of food you have in a day.

— Don’t skip meals- When we skip meals we get very hungry. When we get very hungry our portions get out of control. Make sure you eat all your meals and healthy, appropriately portioned snacks throughout the day to keep yourself from getting too hungry and gorging yourself at supper.

— Know what regular servings sizes are to begin with- One serving of meat is 2-3 ounces. A Serving of vegetables is between ½ and 1 cup. Carbohydrate serving sizes range from 1/3 to ¾ cup. Dairy servings range from 1/3 to 1 cup. If you are ever in doubt refer to the visual cues in number 1.

Even if you aren’t exactly on the mark you will be doing well. Make sure you keep track of how many servings of each food group you have had in the day so you can stay within the recommendations.

— How many servings of each food group should I eat? For a 2,000 calorie per day diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends 6-8 servings of carbs (try to make most of them whole grains), 4-5 servings of vegetables/day, 4-5 servings of fruits/day, 2-3 Servings of milk products/day (preferably low fat), 6 or fewer servings of lean meats, poultry, and fish/day, 2-3 Servings of fats and oils/day, 5 or fewer servings of sugars/week, and 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes/week.

I know that healthy eating can be a chore at times but it can really help you win the calorie battle. Doing so will help make you healthier and could help you lose weight. So be mindful as you fill your plate and get to feeling great. 

Tyler Glidden is the wellness director for the McPherson Family YMCA.