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When it comes to healthy eating, you may find yourself listening to nutrition advice but never really taking it - if you do take it, those habits may not last longer than a week. We're all guilty of nixing nutrition from time to time, but, in honor of Nutrition Month, let's take a look at a simple approach that may make a big difference for your overall health.

(Not great at healthy cooking? Not to worry - we're giving away two spots in a healthy cooking class to help you out. Keep reading for details!)

Portion sizes are notorious for being outrageously large, and we've grown to accept them as the new norm. It's easy to lose sight of what a reasonable amount of food may look like, so let's investigate proper portions and vow to stick to these rules (most of the time) for a change we can all accommodate.

Know your references. If you begin looking at your food in relation to simple references, you'll start to grasp just how much a nutritious serving size should be. The Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association shares these references:

  • Deck of playing cards = 3 ounces of cooked meat
  • A fist = 1 cup of rice, potatoes, grains, side dishes, etc.
  • A thumb = 1 tablespoon of salad dressing, peanut butter, gravy, etc.

Think this isn't enough to keep you full? Think again! If you load your plate with smart choices, you'll realize you won't need those huge portions to feel satisfied. Pile half of your plate with veggies to fill up on fiber and nutrients, and you won't be searching for a snack just after your meal. When choosing starches and grains, opt for whole wheat versions for more added fiber. Picking protein-packed meats combined with whole wheat and veggies will add up to a nutritious plate as well as a full belly.

What are other tips to help manage portions? You'll need to try out different techniques to see what works for you, but some tried and true methods seem to help manage portions for just about everyone. These tips help to retrain your brain so you recognize just how much you're putting into your mouth.

Day-to-Day --

  • Ditch the huge plates. Serving meals on smaller plates gives the illusion that you're eating more than you really are - you won't feel the need to fill empty space with extra servings either.
  • Snack throughout the day. Believe it or not, snacking in this sense is a good thing. Healthy snacks will keep you going from meal to meal and prevent you from overeating at lunch and dinner.
  • Don't eat said snacks straight from the container. If you want some chips, pull out a handful and close up the bag so you're not tempted to keep munching.

Eating Out --

  • Ask for a to-go box right away and store half to take home. You won't feel obligated to finish everything on your plate plus you have a meal ready for tomorrow - a win-win!
  • Take extra care when eating at buffets or family-style restaurants. Look around first to see what you really want instead of finding a tempting option at each new station.
  • At a party or wedding where food is being served, don't feel that you need to eat everything that comes your way. If that side of mashed potatoes doesn't look that great to you, don't eat it just because it's there.
  • Ask for any condiments on the side (dressing, gravy, mayonnaise, etc.) so you can choose the amount.

Need some help with healthy cooking? We've teamed up with Cooking Spotlight to give away a pair of tickets to the "Welcome Spring with Delicious Recipes" Cooking Class. Want to enter for a chance to win? We're giving you four! Enter by liking The Chester County Hospital's Facebook by March 29, and you and a friend could be enjoying a hands-on, fun-filled evening with refreshing and invigorating recipes to welcome in spring. Be sure to check out WC Dish for more foodie fun and restaurant news, too.

Celebrate Nutrition Month by practicing practical portions, and you may just find that these habits will stick. Eat up!

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