When I was in college, healthy eating wasn't my #1 priority. (Shocking, I know!) My friends and I used to troll for the best deals at local restaurants and grocery stores. We were there for bottomless pasta bowls and all-you-can-eat buffets, and we took advantage of every two-for-one deal the grocery store offered. Of course, we were poor college students, so some thriftiness was understandable. Still, I remember watching as my friends packed on way more than the standard "freshman 15," eating much more food than they needed to be satiated, just because it was cheap.
It seems healthy eating isn't on America's list of priorities either. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- 72 million American adults are obese.
- Obese people have medical costs nearly $1,500 higher than people who maintain a healthy weight.
- No state has an obesity rate of less than 15 percent.
In fact, since the 1960s, the obesity rate has skyrocketed from around 13 percent of the population to around 34 percent!
While scientists and researchers try to figure out why obesity has exploded in America, and government officials craft plans to help states lower their obesity percentages, there is a simple solution that everyone concerned with healthy eating can incorporate into their lives right now that will prevent them from ever becoming obese, or that will help them begin to lose the extra weight:
Pay attention to your portions!!
In addition to the changes in how food is processed and the fact that most processed food have high-fructose corn syrup added to them, changes in portion sizes provide the clearest evidence that we're eating way too much. A medium soda is three times larger today than it was 20 years ago (20 ounces vs. 6.5 ounces). Bagels and burgers are both twice the size they used to be. Another study by the CDC found that most restaurant servings are four times larger than they were in 1950.
Luckily, there are techniques you can use to ensure you're only eating what you need, rather than everything that's placed in front of you:
- 1. Use smaller plates. This is the best solution when you're eating at home. Healthy eating generally also means eating less. While you could only cook enough for the one meal, I know people who are strapped for time like to cook enough for a few meals at once and then eat them throughout the week. But I also know that once the food is ready, it can be tough not to eat more than you planned in one sitting. Avoid eating a week's worth of food in one night by using salad or side plates as your dinner plate. You'll have less room for heaping helpings.
- 2. Make food unappetizing. I've tried to ask restaurants to give me smaller plates; it doesn't work. But here's what does: Once you're satiated, make the food that's left on your plate unappealing. That may mean sprinkling sugar on the remains of your mashed potatoes, or drowning the other half of your filet in water. It's known that we'll eat what's in front of us, so you need to make that impossible - or, at the very least, unpleasant. If the thought of wasting food makes your stomach turn, ask for a to-go box as soon as your meal arrives, and box up half before you take a bite. You'll eat less and have a lunch ready to go tomorrow when you're running late for work!
- 3. Supermarket membership has its perks. Your healthy eating goals don't have to work against your wallet! Here's a tip: Many supermarkets will honor the discount price if you have their membership card. So you may not necessarily have to buy two to get the two-for-one price. Check with your local supermarket or befriend a cashier. Only having what you need for a healthy meal plan does wonders for preventing overeating.
- Measure your servings beforehand. If you do decide to make a larger portion than you plan on eating, set aside the amount you plan to eat and put away the rest!