A January column by Jane Brody in the New York Times concerned portion control, an approach to eating that enabled her to lose 40 pounds over two years and to keep the weight off without feeling deprived. Brody wrote the column because data from the Centers for Disease Control show that American men and women have continued to grow fatter, with the average body mass index now close to obesity.
Brady followed the advice of a dietician and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, Lisa R. Young, whose book is called “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” Young describes a practical approach to food and eating that can be adapted to most people’s lives, whether they eat at home—the best way—or out.
When eating at home, downsize your dinner plate to a salad plate. Fill half your plate with cooked vegetables like spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and green beans, and add a side salad with some chopped fruit and a dribble of dressing. Limit baked potatoes and whole grains to half-cup servings. A serving of avocado or nuts is one-quarter cup. Weigh meat, poultry or fish so that a portion is 3 to 4 ounces. Vegetarians can have similar amounts of eggs or low-fat plain yogurt with chopped fruit. (Vegans are rarely overweight!) A serving of wine is 5 ounces and should be measured. You can add sweets and treats to your weight loss plan a few times a week, so that you will not feel totally deprived. Eat a few spoonfuls of ice cream instead of a pint. When your weight is where you want it to be, have a small treat more often.
If you eat out, the best approach is to bring along a box or tiffin carrier and put half of your serving away, or share it with your dinner companion, before starting to eat. Always ask for salad with dressing on the side. Drink water before and during your meal. Have a healthy snack an hour or two before going to the restaurant, such as a low-sodium V8 with a whole-grain cracker. You can get great ideas for eating out on Lisa Young’s website, where you can sign up for her Slice of Advice newsletter and download a whole chapter on eating out in a healthy manner.
Here’s my take-home message from this column: Avoiding being overweight or obese will lessen your chances of several cancers and help to avoid heart disease. It will make it easier to enjoy whatever sports you may like, including hiking and walking your dog. Jane Brody and Lisa R. Young have outlined a plan that will help in a sensible way, without costing money or making you starve or feel resentful.
Sadja Greenwood, a longtime Bolinas resident now living in Portland, is a retired physician formerly active at the University of California, San Francisco. Read more of her work at sadjascolumns.blogspot.com.