Never Sacrifice Taste

Just use these tips to control your portions. It may be the simplest way to eat well (and even lose weight).

Eating right isn’t about being a martyr and denying yourself good taste. In fact, Mindful is built on the notion that taste and wellness go hand-in-hand. (After all, if something doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter if it’s good for you because you’ll never eat it.)  So the first rule is to eat food you like. The second rule: eat the right amount. We call that portion control, and it’s a key factor in maintaining a lifestyle of wellness. How to do it? Make a fist next time you make or order pasta. Huh? Well, read on and you’ll see why, plus many other good tips that will have you eating smarter starting, like, tonight.

Picture the plate. In 2011, the USDA switched from its traditional Food Guide Pyramid eating recommendations to MyPlate. This new graphic (see it at choosemyplate.gov) has been well received by nutritionists because it helps people quickly gauge if they’ve made the right meal choices. Fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains each comprise about a quarter of the plate, with a small amount of dairy on the side. Just keeping this image in mind as you make your way through our cafés will enable you to instantly balance every meal.

Downsize your dinnerware. If your willpower is more along the lines of should-power, try eating off a smaller plate. Cornell University researchers have found that routinely eating from a 10-inch rather than 12-inch plate reduced calorie consumption by 22 percent. Similar effects resulted from using smaller bowls and even spoons. The next time you’re at the café or even at a big family buffet, grab a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Fill it with a nice variety of foods; its size will automatically limit what you take and keep your calories in check. Assuming you don’t return for seconds, it’s a genius solution for unknowingly eating too much.

Eat until you’re 80 percent full. Residents of Okinawa, Japan, call this eating philosophy hara hachi bu. Why should you listen to them? Because residents of this city outlive just about everyone else in the world, according to statistics. The 80 percent rule, as it has come to be known, is another simple way to control your calories when you don’t know the nutritional specifics of what you’re eating. Simple— except for the tricky part of figuring out what 80 percent full feels like. Because the stomach’s “full” signal takes a few minutes to register in the brain, the best things you can do are to eat more slowly and to eat roughly half of what you’d typically eat and ask yourself if you’re no longer hungry. Those two tricks will help synchronize your belly and brain and keep you from feeling stuffed.

For Dining Tunes, Choose Slow. Clever restaurants that want to turn tables over more quickly will play peppy background music, usually 125 to 130 beats per minute. That’s because the faster the music, the faster people eat. It’s a scientific fact. But you can use this strategy to your advantage by doing the opposite. Save your most high-energy music for your workouts. When eating, turn on tunes that relax you and keep things mellow. Such slower songs will prompt you to eat slower, which means eating less.

Enjoy your own company. While there’s no replacing a great meal enjoyed with good friends and family, if calorie control is one of your priorities you’re smart to head to our cafeterias solo on most days. That’s because studies show that eating with others leads us to eat more. One study broke it down like this: Eating with one other person increased the amount of food that participants ate by 28 percent; with two others, 41 percent; and with six or more, 76 percent.

Make the food more familiar. Nutrition and weight-loss guides are filled with specific recommendations for how much to eat. But when you’re dining out, who can tell what one serving, 3 ounces, or ½ cup really looks like? And at home you don’t really want to fuss with lots of measuring cups and scales. The easy way to get a handle on portion sizes is to equate the measurements to familiar objects.

What’s recommended: What it looks like:
  • 3 ounces meat or fish
  • ½ cup cooked pasta
  • 1 tablespoon salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 8 ounces lasagna
  • 1 serving bread
  • A deck of cards
  • Your fist
  • ½ golf ball
  • The tip of your thumb
  • Two hockey pucks
  • A yo-yo
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