The old adage, though many would like to believe otherwise, is very true… we are what we eat.

One of the main reasons people become overweight or obese is overeating. And for those who eat out frequently, portion size can be a detriment contributing to an unhealthy excess of calories and fat resulting in an unwelcomed weight gain. Often weight gain can be gradual, as we may see a pound or two creep up on us now and then, leading to a more steady weight gain over the years. Eating just 100 extra calories a day for a year will result in a 10 pound weight gain in a year, and is often the result of eating larger portions than we need.

With a little extra knowledge and a little practice, you can look at your food and know the number of portions you are eating. For a visual example, one portion of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards, and a medium potato about the size of a computer mouse. If you eat double or triple the standard portions, you are eating double or triple the calories.   

A recommended portion is 3–4 ounces of meat, chicken, or fish (about the size of a deck of cards), which usually has around 200–250 calories. Most restaurant steaks, however, are 8–12 ounces and up to 750 calories which is 2–3 times the calories you need. And that does not include the side items, bread, dessert and drinks eaten with that meal.

Breads and cereals, especially those with whole grains, are both nutritious and delicious. An average serving is one slice of bread, 1 small roll or ½ – 1 cup of cereal and contains around 80 calories. A foot long sub from a sandwich shop, however, will give you 4-6 times the “serving” of bread, or 320-480 calories from just the bread alone on your sandwich.  Bagels and muffins are also normally double or triple the normal portion size and double or triple the calories.

It is often easy to overlook beverages as a source of extra calories, but they often play a major role, especially with excess soda consumption. A 12 oz soda has about 150 calories, or a 20 oz bottle of soda about 250 -300 calories. Drinking 2-3 sodas a day can result in 450 – 900 calories per day, in addition to the food you eat.

Snack foods:
It is often all too easy to open a bag of snack food, start munching, and before you know it half the bag is gone and you do not know how many calories you just consumed. Eating just the amount of snack or chips you can fit into your cupped hand, or an individual serving sized bagged snack is a good option, as long as you eat only one portion.   

Tips for eating out:

  • Start with a mixed green salad with light vinaigrette dressing to help curb your appetite.
  • Request the bread basket not be brought to the table.
  • Share an entrée with a friend.
  • Request a doggie bag at the beginning of the meal; put half your meal in the doggie bag before eating to avoid over- eating.
  • Ask how items are prepared. Choose baked, broiled, steamed, poached or grilled. AVOID fried, deep- fried, creamed, or blackened.
  • Request condiments, dressings and sauces be served on the side.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Order fresh fruit or berries for dessert, or share dessert with a friend.