If there’s one thing everyone knows about New Year’s resolutions, it’s this: Even if we start the year strong, sticking to an objective for longer than a few months can seem nearly impossible. We resolve to eat healthy, and then life starts to get hectic, and before we know it, we’re grabbing that donut or ordering pizza because it’s the easiest option.
But here’s the secret to New Year’s resolutions: The less you have to change your daily routine to stick to your goal, the better. As far as that healthy-eating resolution, it’s important to come up with ways to make planning and cooking balanced meals as painless as possible so that you aren’t spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen. Arm yourself with these practical tips, and eating healthy will become a seamless part of your routine in no time:
What is Portion Control?
First of all, it’s important to understand portion control. That’s because one of the easiest ways to take control of your diet is to manage your portion sizes. But what does that mean exactly? The definition of portion control is knowing exactly how much of a certain type of food you should eat at any given time. This keeps us from overeating, which is one of the most common pitfalls people experience when trying to make better dietary choices. With that in mind, read on for 10 tips to help you control your portions and set yourself up for healthy eating success in general.
1. Plate It
Serving yourself food at dinnertime isn’t an exact science – it’s easy to scoop just a bit too much onto your plate. Here’s what you can do instead: Use a biscuit cutter set to give yourself the perfect serving sizes. Put the biscuit cutters on your plate, and fill the 3-inch one with rice, beans, potatoes or pasta (you’ll get about ½ cup). Then, put raw leafy greens in the 4-inch biscuit cutter to get a full 1-cup serving.
2. Make Portioning Easy
You use your muffin tins for whipping up muffins and cupcakes, but they’re actually also great tools for helping you take the guesswork out of portion sizes. Each cup in a standard muffin tin or brownie pan holds about 3 to 3 1/2 ounces. Use them to make individual meat loaves or mini spinach lasagna squares. That way, if you put one on your plate at a time, you won’t be tempted to serve yourself a gigantic portion of your entree. You can always take a second serving if you’re still hungry!
3. Weigh In
Kitchen scales make portioning snacks and food effortless. Why? Because portion sizes can be measured in ounces. One serving size of cooked protein (including fish) is 3 ounces, a single helping of nuts is 1 ounce, one serving of cheese is 1 to 2 ounces, and a serving of dry pasta is 2 ounces. You can even weigh and store single servings of food and snacks ahead of time – for example, weigh out healthy portions of pretzels, cheese or nuts, and keep them in individual sandwich bags – you’ll easily be able to just “grab and go” throughout the week.
4. Whip Up a Smart Swap
You know you’re not supposed to eat that emergency chocolate stashed in the back of your freezer. You know it. It’s just so hard not to…If you feel the urge to reach for your favorite treat, the best thing you can do is have a healthier option on hand you can dig into instead. A great swap for your sweet tooth? Make frozen yogurt treats by scooping flavored yogurt (Greek or plain) and some frozen berries into the wells of an herb freezing tray, and sticking it in your freezer. Just pop out a fro-yo treat whenever you’re in the mood for something sweet!
5. Take Control
Store-bought salad dressings and marinades often hide tons of unhealthy ingredients (looking at you, buttermilk ranch dressing). If you make and bottle your own using a healthier recipe, you’ll know exactly what’s going into your body. Use a Measure, Mix & Pour to easily whip up and store your favorite salad dressing—perhaps a lighter version of ranch dressing?
6. Measure Up
No matter how many times you make spaghetti, it never gets easier to guess exactly how much pasta to cook (I end up with way more pasta than I need every single time). Pasta portioners make it really easy to cook just the right amount. Keep this tool handy, and use it to measure however many servings of dry pasta you want to make.
7. Find a Quick Reference for Snacks
Tablespoons and measuring cups are useful for cooking and baking, but they can also help you get super exact when you’re trying to take control of your portion sizes. These and other measuring tools are perfect for portioning your snacks: Measure 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or hummus, ¼ cup of dried fruit, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, and 1 cup for cottage cheese or yogurt.
8. Get Educated
One of the best hacks for getting portions right every time: Use your hands. Different parts of your hands and fingers can help you measure different serving sizes. Your palm is about the size of a 3-ounce portion of meat, your full thumb is equal to about 1 to 2 tablespoons and your fist is about the size of 1 cup.
9. Take Healthy Snacks To Go
You already know you can use measuring cups for snacks, but 1-cup prep bowls or plastic containers can be just as useful. At the beginning of each week, fill the bowls with healthy snacks, like leafy greens, raw fruit, soup and cottage cheese. Keep them in your refrigerator and grab one or two to take with you when you head to work each morning.
10. Simply Scoop It Up
Some kitchen tools are made to make portioning as easy as possible – that includes the medium stainless steel scoop, which holds about 2 tablespoons. This makes the tool perfect for measuring the right portions of everything from almond butter and nuts to low-fat salad dressings. Use it to serve yourself a healthy amount of that homemade light ranch when you’re fixing a salad for lunch!