Healthy snacks

We all want to be healthy, but the hardest part can be figuring out how or where to start. In previous columns, I’ve mentioned the key to successful weight loss starts with what you put on your plate. But for many people that’s where the confusion begins — especially when there are so many trending diets that promise quick results.

My advice is to stop resorting to fad diets! If you’ve found success in a specific diet and you know you can stick with it, then do so. But in my experience, fad diets don’t last. And some can deprive you of certain nutrients your body needs.

Eating healthy is a lifestyle change, which is why it’s crucial to attain healthy eating habits that are tailored to help you meet your continuous wellness goals as you manage your daily routine.

Personally, I have found success in portion control. Instead of counting calories, portion control is a more realistic approach to regulating your food intake as you eat in moderation. Plus, you can still eat some of your favorite foods, but again, in moderation.

To take a closer look at what consists of a well-balanced diet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

According to these guidelines, most adults need at least 2,000 calories per day (3,500 calories is about 1 pound). The guidelines also suggest that adults should eat these amounts from the listed food groups: vegetables: 2½ cups; fruit: 2 cups; grains: 6 ounces; dairy: 3 cups; protein: 5½ ounces; oils: 27 grams.

The recommendations give you an idea of what the size of your portions should look like as you prepare your daily meals and snacks. Keep in mind, even though you’re not concentrating on counting every calorie, you should get into the habit of reading nutrition labels on packaged food. I’ve started doing this a lot more and it’s helped me understand why I’ve failed to reach my wellness goals in the past.

When implementing the portion control method, you may find it is impractical to measure everything you put on your plate. So here are a few tricks to make it easier :

• Utilize portion control plates and containers. This will help take the guesswork out of determining the exact portion you need without measuring. Packing your containers at the start of the work week also will make it easier for you to quickly grab your meals and snacks while on the go.

• When dining out, share. We have become accustomed to large plates of food being served at restaurants. And when we see all that food loaded on our plates, we end up eating way more than intended. A lot of these portion sizes are enough for two people. So next time you’re out, share a meal. It will help you save money, too.

• Are you still hungry? When you’re tempted to serve yourself a second helping or you’re reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or if you’re just bored. Typically we overeat in social settings and when we’re just lounging at home. This is when we lose track of what we’ve eaten for the day and suddenly those healthy habits vanish. Also, don’t guilt yourself into cleaning your plate. Eat until you feel satisfied, then stop.

• Use these visuals to help gauge portion sizes. If you’re craving junk food, general nutritionists suggest you stick to a portion size of 1 cup, which is about the size of your fist. When serving yourself meats or protein, the portion size should be between the size of a deck of cards and no bigger than the size of a regular iPhone.

• Slow down. We’re all in a hurry to get things done and get to our next destination, but when it comes to eating — slow down. You’re stomach has a hard time keeping up with you if you’re quickly shoveling food into your mouth. Take your time and let your food settle. You’ll find that you will get full quicker without feeling overly stuffed.

Ultimately, no matter how much you exercise throughout the week, if you don’t pair it with healthy meals you’re just sabotaging yourself. Portion control can be the perfect way for you to cut back on excessive quantities of food without completely eliminating some of your favorite treats.

Stephanie Swearngin has been a nationally certified fitness professional since 2009. She teaches group fitness classes at VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa and at VASA Fitness in Colorado Springs.

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