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See also: Better Brown Bag Lunches
Vitamins and Minerals: An Essential Part of Every Child's Diet Understanding Balance and Moderation

Slow down, enjoy and actually taste your food. It takes at least twenty minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it is full. Slowing down will help to curb the urge to go back for a second helping. Slowing down can also help to ensure proper digestion. To help yourself slow down, take sips of your beverage between bites, put your fork down in between bites, and enjoy the conversation of others. Sit down to eat instead of eating while standing at the counter, driving, or watching television. Eating while doing other things means you are eating unconsciously, and you may consume more than you plan to.

Controlling Portion Sizes
Portion sizes are crucial when you're trying to eat a healthy diet. In fact, one of the primary reasons people are overweight is lack of portion control. To follow the Food Guide Pyramid guidelines, you need to be aware of serving or portion sizes. Serving sizes are specific, standardized amounts of food and are meant as general guidelines to help you plan and judge your own portions. The portion sizes you consume contribute directly to the amount of calories and the amount of fat that you consume per day.

Essential: The best approach to ensuring that you don't skip meals is to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Planning ahead is the key to eating a healthy diet throughout the day. This will also help to prevent haphazard eating, which often results in high-calorie, high-fat eating.

To follow a healthy diet, you don't need to weigh and measure all of your food each day. Keep in mind that portion sizes are meant as general guidelines, so the aim is to come close to the recommended serving sizes, on average, over several days. Use these visual comparisons to help estimate your portion sizes:

  • A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards.
  • A medium potato is about the size of a computer mouse.
  • 1 cup of rice or pasta is about the size of a fist or a tennis ball.
  • An average bagel should be the size of a hockey puck or a large to-go coffee lid.
  • A cup of fruit or a medium apple or orange is the size of a baseball.
  • ½ cup of chopped vegetables is about the size of three regular ice cubes.
  • 3 ounces of grilled fish is the size of your checkbook.
  • 1 ounce of cheese is the size of four dice.
  • 1 teaspoon of peanut butter equals one die; 2 tablespoons is about the size of a golf ball.
  • 1 ounce of snack foods-pretzels, etc. equals a large handful.
  • 1 thumb tip equals 1 teaspoon; 3 thumb tips equal 1 tablespoon; and a whole thumb equals 1 ounce.
To help you eat only the portions you measure out, portion out your food before bringing it to the table. You will be less likely to eat more when serving bowls are not on the table. Another clever trick is to use a smaller plate to make your portion sizes look bigger.

Smart Snacking
Contrary to popular belief, snacking can be part of a healthful eating plan. Choosing snacks wisely can help fuel your body between meals, give you an energy boost, and add to your total intake of essential nutrients for the day. Snacking can also help to take the edge off hunger between meals. The longer you wait between meals, the more you tend to eat at the next meal. Leaving only about three to four hours between meals is an ideal amount of time to keep blood sugar levels in control. The key to smart snacking is the type and amounts of food that you choose. Mindless snacking or nibbling on high-fat, high-calorie foods can lead to trouble in the form of unwanted and empty calories.

To make snacking a healthy part of your diet, try these tips:

  • Choose snacks that are lower in fat and nutrient rich.
  • Make snacks part of your eating plan for the day instead of thinking of them as an extra.
  • Make snacking a conscious activity.
  • Plan and eat snacks well ahead of mealtime.
  • Eat smaller portion snacks, not meal-size ones.
Try some of these smart snacks as part of your healthy eating plan:
  • ½ bagel with peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables with low-fat or fat-free dressing
  • Fruit yogurt topped with low-fat granola cereal
  • Low-fat cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit
  • Fresh fruit
  • Light microwave popcorn
  • Pita bread stuffed with fresh veggies and low-fat dressing
  • Low-fat string cheese
  • Whole-grain cereal and fat-free milk
  • Vegetable juice
Can eating smaller meals more than three times a day be part of a healthy diet? Yes. Eating small meals means eating smaller portion meals throughout the day, with the same goals of variety, balance, and moderation. For healthful grazing, make sure you still get your needed number of servings from all of the food groups. Balance the amount of food you eat, and eat smaller portions.

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Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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