Smart Strategies for Portion Control During the Holidays

December 14, 2016

The calorie intake of the average American continues to grow, and these extra calories can add up to weight gain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1971 until 2000, American women increased the number of calories they consumed by 22 percent (a 335 calorie increase), while men increased their intake by seven percent (a 168 calorie increase).  Though you may not consume these extra calories on a daily basis, it is likely that you will consume these additional calories, and maybe more, during the holiday season.

Holiday parties, office lunches and excess alcohol are all part of what make the holidays fun and special for so many people. It’s also during this time (the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas) that weight begins to creep. We think it’s important for people to enjoy this special time with friends and family, but we also want to remind them that it’s not a free for all. This is why we dedicate a lot of time to reviewing portion control and servings sizes with patients this time of year.

So what is the difference between a portion size and a serving size? A portion size is the actual amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size, nor is there a “right” or “wrong” portion size. A serving size is a standard unit of measure. It is used to help give advice about how much to eat or drink to identify the calories and nutrients in a food or beverage.

Below are standard serving sizes of popular holiday foods to keep in mind the next time you’re heading out to a holiday party.

  • 1 tablespoons of peanut butter = the size of a woman’s thumb
  • ½ cup of Pasta/rice/potatoes/corn/peas = the size of a tennis ball
  • ½ of a bagel= the size of a hockey puck
  • 1 ounce of bread = the size of an audiocassette tape
  • 1 slice of cake = the size of a deck of cards
  • 1 cookie = the size of 2 poker chips
  • 1 3oz hamburger= the size of a deck of cards
  • 4oz of fried calamari = the length of a light bulb

In order to be successful this holiday season, is it important to recognize the difference between portion sizes and serving sizes. We offer the following tips to our patients:

  1. Use smaller dishes, glasses and serving spoons to help keep portions smaller.
  2. Go small or share. Considering splitting a plate with a spouse or friend to keep portions more reasonable.
  3. Honor your body’s cues. Your body’s signals of hunger and fullness can help you eat the right amount of food.
  4. As soon as you’re done eating, place your open napkin over your plate. This is a visual reminder to yourself that you are done.
  5. Plan in advance. Having an idea of what might be served at a party can help you plan your calories for the rest of the night. Try snacking on something healthy and filling before heading out.
Typically, average-weight people gain about one pound over the holiday season. This may not sound like much weight gain, but most of us never lose that pound – and year after year, this annual holiday weight gain can lead to health problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  Using these serving size and portion control strategies can help you navigate your holiday parties successfully and start out strong in the New Year! 
Categories: Nutrition
Topics: Holiday Eating