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What you eat matters. How much you eat of various foods is important, too. Keep a close eye on how much food you put on your plate. Not only will it help you avoid overeating, you may also find you can eat more than you thought. When you eat the right amounts of different food types, you can feel full enjoying a variety of foods without blowing your goal to eat healthy.
Not all foods are equal, so the amount you eat matters. How much is the right amount? It depends on the food.
There are some foods you can load up on without guilt. There are others you should enjoy in moderation. Then there are tasty, often unhealthy foods you should skip or only eat in very small amounts.
The first step to controlling portion sizes is learning what makes up an ideal serving of different foods.
Recommended sizes are much smaller than you might think. An optimal serving of:
It’s also important to understand the unhealthy food choices you’re making. Fast food, sugary desserts and sweet drinks might be among them. There are other foods that aren't unhealthy but can easily add up to too many calories if you aren't careful.
Two “problem” foods — solid fats and added sugars — can make up hundreds of your daily calories. Replace them with healthier choices. Instead of butter and other solid fats, try olive, canola or other oils that are better for your waistline.
Check food labels and restaurant menus for hidden calories. Learn to "eyeball" your portion sizes to avoid overeating.
You can eat larger portions of filling, nutritious foods. Raw, steamed, grilled and baked vegetables are good examples. Enjoy generous servings of tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, celery, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchinis, radishes and mushrooms. Add spices for flavor instead of fat or salt.
Fruit is full of vitamins. Eat as many lower-sugar fruits like grapefruit, kiwi, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries as you want. But trim your portions of higher-sugar fruits like apples, mangos, pineapple, oranges, cantaloupe and bananas. And eat the whole fruit, not just the juice. The sugar and carbohydrates in juices and higher-sugar fruits can add up to a lot of extra calories if you aren’t careful.
Eat foods that are higher in carbohydrates in smaller portions, and less often. That includes potatoes, grains, rice, white and wheat flour-based pasta, breads, and tortillas chips.
Legumes are filling, healthy and full of protein, but they’re also high in carbs. They include black beans, fava beans, lima beans, lentils and peas.
Eat moderate portion sizes of fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese. Eat fish and lean meats like white meat chicken and turkey, pork tenderloin, and beef tenderloin in moderation. Prepare it broiled, grilled, baked or pan sautéed, not fried.
Try some of these portion-control tricks. They can help you avoid some common portion-size pitfalls:
Pay attention to what you eat — and how much. Make slow changes. Before long, your healthier eating will become a habit. Those new habits can be the path to better health.
Originally published 10/28/2016; Revised 2020, 2022, 2023
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