Sunday, November 13, 2011

Measure Twice, Eat Once

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to stand in line come dinner time, and watch my friends carelessly load up their plates with mountains of food.  Upon sitting down with me, and seeing my disappointed expression, they immediately jump into a stiff defense "hey man, grilled chicken is healthy!  You've even written about it!"

Yeah, grilled chicken is great for you.  That doesn't mean you need four 8 oz pieces.

Today we live in a world where portion sizes have really gone out of control.  At any restaurant with even a small menu you'd be able to purchase a steak twice as large as you'd optimally want for health purposes.  Fries come in super large, extra super large, and ginormously fantastically extra super  large.  And even then I still see people walk out with not one, but two boxes of them.  And they're not even the main meal!!!  And don't even get me started on soft drinks.  Have you seen the size of even a medium fountain drink?   HOLY MOLY!!!

I can't stress enough that if you want to eat healthy, the actual foods you consume are only half the story.  The truth is that if you eat too much of ANY food, even if it's healthy, it's not that healthy anymore, and it certainly will NOT help you lean out.  You need to measure how much you're eating!  Make an honest effort to determine how many servings you're having, and take just a little time out of your day to make the calorie calculations based on the amount of food you're having.  Here are a few tools that everyone should have, and use, on a regular basis:

Various Measuring Cups (You can get a whole set on a ring from walmart, from 1 cup down to 1/4 cup.)

Tablespoon and Teaspoon set (usually these sets go from 1 tablespoon down to an eighth of a teaspoon.)

Liquid measuring cup (usually these have multiple units on them, such as ounces and milliliters.)

Digital scale (that measures in ounces and grams.  Don't be afraid, these things can go for less than 20$ )

Again I can't emphasize the importance of these tools when it comes to diet.  If you don't own at least a few of these, you really don't take your diet as seriously as you could.  

But it can be a little confusing to look at nutritional labels and understand what the units mean, and which measuring device they refer to.  So here's a quick guide:

Tbsp- tablespoon.  Use the tablespoon set, no brainer.
Tsp-Teaspoon.  Teaspoon set.
oz- ounce.  A unit of weight.  Use the scale, or if it's on a liquid container, use your liquid measuring cup.
Cup- I assume you know this one.
ml-milliliter, a unit of volume.  Again, use the liquid measuring cup.
g- Gram, a unit of mass, but in your case it's applied as weight.  Use your scale.
Scoop- This one will only be displayed if your product has a scoop in it.  Variations may be "rounded     scoop" or "heaping scoop," which mean the amount of product should be mounded at the top slightly.

Once you understand serving sizes, it will be much easier to keep track of calories.  In fact serving sizes, in my opinion, are the last piece of the puzzle.  They will make sure that if the recipe is as it says on the label, and you eat how much they say to on the label, then you'll have consumed the exact number of calories that the label states.  It's that easy!  It's quite simple to modify your calorie intake as well, and still know exactly the final number you're getting.  If you eat two servings, multiply the calories by two.  If you eat one and a half, multiply by 1.5.  If you eat one quarter of the serving size, either divide by four or multiply by .25.  It's so simple, and the math will keep that brain sharp.

I can already hear the complaints though: "Measuring takes too long! I don't have time to portion out everything!"  First of all, that's bologna.  Make some time to do it, at least once.  It'll save you a ton of diet problems in the future.  Secondly, YOU DON'T HAVE TO MEASURE EVERY TIME WITH EVERY FOOD.  If you eat cereal every morning, take one morning and measure out the serving size proclaimed by the nutritional label, and see how it looks in your bowl.  Take note.  Shake it around a little, then take note again.  Then measure out a cup of milk (or go in smaller intervals until you get the amount you want) and see if you can get it to your liking.  Take note again!  Calculate the calories, and commit it to memory.  Because you have cereal every single morning, you should be able to eyeball it pretty easily after measuring a couple times.  And guess what?  This method can be applied to many foods that you consume regularly.

But if you're at all unsure, MEASURE IT.  I can't stress that enough.  Just measure it, you'll feel better in the end, and more than likely you'll be more successful for your diet.

So don't be that person that loads their plate up obliviously with grilled chicken and a mound of mashed sweet potatoes.  Both those foods are GREAT in moderation, but killers in excess.  Measuring isn't hard, and it really differentiates a nooby dieter from a seasoned vet.  Know not only what you're eating, but exactly how much.

Measure twice, eat once, and keep on track.  Good Luck!

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