Portion Patrol to the Rescue

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By Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida

 What are good portion control tips?

At the Pritikin Longevity Center, we do not focus on portion control. In fact, we advise against portion control and calorie counting. That’s because all too often, if we’re judiciously counting up calories, we come up short, meaning, we’re still hungry.  All we’ve had for our 600 calories at a holiday meal are a small scoop of mashed potatoes, a dollop of gravy, and a slice of pie. 

At Pritikin, our physicians and dietitians teach that for most foods, it’s not how much you eat. It’s what you eat.

We help our guests develop a new mind-set about food. It’s called the calorie density approach. It means focusing on foods that are big in size, or volume, but low in calories for every bite that you take. With foods like these, you get up from the table full and satisfied, you keep hunger at bay, and you stay lean.

Excellent examples of foods that are low or moderately low in calorie density are

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Potatoes (yes, potatoes!)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Hot whole-grain cereals (not cold cereals)
  • Other cooked whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice
  • Lean sources of protein, such as legumes (beans), nonfat dairy foods, fish, and skinless poultry breast

There’s one other important point about all the above. All these foods are nutrient-rich.  You’re getting virtually all the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, and other beneficial nutrients you need from the foods you eat, and foods alone. No supplements are necessary.

What is the correct portion of holiday favorites?

Rather than focusing on the correct portions of foods, we counsel our guests at Pritikin in sequencing their food choices. 

For example, in the dining room we start each meal with the lowest calorie-dense foods first. At a holiday meal, a great low-calorie-dense choice is the fresh vegetables at the appetizer table or, if they’re available, roasted chestnuts.

At the main meal, excellent first-course choices would include a big green salad with balsamic vinegar, and/or a veggie- and bean-rich soup. (Do stay away from cream-based soups. It’s important for both your heart and waistline.)

When you start out with foods like the above, there will naturally be less room in your stomach for the more calorie-dense fare that follows.

What are foods to keep you feeling full longer?

At Pritikin, we are experts in foods that keep you feeling full longer. Our Pritikin Eating Plan is based on these foods.

We call them foods with the most satiety per calorie.

Satiety is the flip side of hunger. It’s getting out of hunger. But even more importantly, satiety is how long you stay full. Does your meal fill you up for one hour? Two hours? Three? The longer it “sticks to your ribs,” the more satiety that meal provided. 

Research has shown that when you get more satiety per calorie, you get full without going overboard on calories. For the most part, foods with a lot of satiety per calorie have two key attributes.  They are…

1.  Naturally rich in fiber

A number of studies have shown that, compared to low-fiber foods, high-fiber foods consumed at breakfast or lunch can significantly reduce food intake at the next meal.

One way to eat more high-fiber foods is to have fun experimenting with new fruits and vegetables, and add more beans to your diet. Beans, such as pinto, black, and garbanzo beans, are super fiber-rich. Add beans, peas, or lentils to soups, salads, pasta dishes, and stir fries. You’ll never get bored and the extra fiber they provide will leave you in a satiety state much longer.

 2.  Naturally rich in water

As soon as we say “water,” people tend to think beverages. But sadly, many beverages are packed with calories. Liquid calories, no matter their source, will not curb your appetite as well as solid foods rich in water. Steer clear of any drink with calories, everything from soft drinks to fruit juices.

Foods especially rich in water are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Rather than drinking fruit juice, eat the whole fruit. Science has shown that fruit juices promote excessive calorie intake just as sweet teas, sports drinks, and soft drinks do.

Other good sources of naturally-water-rich foods include:

  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains cooked in water, from oatmeal to whole-wheat pasta
  • Beans (yes, we’re back to beans again!)

How to incorporate more vegetables into your holiday diet

As stated earlier, start each meal with a veggie-rich choice, like a large green salad or a vegetable soup.

Here are two more tips:

At holiday dinner buffets, fill up at least half your plate with veggie choices, and do this before you add anything else to your plate.

Walk into a party not thinking about food. Do so by making yourself a nice vegetable or starchy vegetable snack just before leaving for the party. Great choices include carrots and other veggie sticks with a little hummu