January 8 , 2008
Weight Loss: Portion Control and Hidden Calories
Joan Marie Pellegrini, MD
It is the start of a new year and one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier or to lose weight. Most people know by now that there is no diet out there that is going to be successful for many people. However, there are a two tips which can go a long ways towards creating success. One of them is portion control and the other is avoiding hidden calories.
Almost everything we buy has a nutrition label which lists the serving size and the calories. The serving size, though, rarely represents the actual size that the average person consumes. Take Cheerios as an example of a healthy food. A serving is 110 calories for a one cup serving. One cup is only one ounce (about 31 grams). Most people would have at least 2 cups and then would add about a cup of milk (let’s say 2% for calculation). That meal is no longer 110 calories, it is at least 340 calories. This is fine as long as you are not thinking that you are eating only about a 100 calories worth. The best way to start with portion control is to weigh or measure everything until you get a sense of volumes and sizes. All it takes is a measuring cup and a food scale which can be obtained inexpensively at any kitchen or home goods store.
Now about those hidden calories: this becomes a real issue when eating out. Let’s take the example of ordering a Quizno’s regular size Italian sub sandwich. We want to be health conscious and so we order it without cheese or dressing. This sandwich would be 650 calories. Unfortunately, it would also supply half of the daily recommended intake of fat and all the daily intake of sodium. It does have a healthy side: it has 8 grams of fiber. If you were to add cheese and dressing you now have 950 calories and 80% of your daily fat intake. If you add a small bag of chips (not many at only 28 grams) and a small soda you could be looking at a meal that provides 1300 calories. Most people would not consider this to be a very big lunch but it sure is big on calories for the average person.
If you are the average American with a few extra pounds to shed, you do not necessarily need to look for a new diet. Losing weight may be as easy as weighing your food and avoiding the “hidden calorie”.