Portion sizes: A key to weight management

57468422 - close-up of a healthy snack handful of nuts and sultanasHow savvy are you about portion sizes? Over the past 10 years, portion sizes in the United States have grown increasingly out of whack, and most people vastly overestimate how much they should eat at each meal. Consider this:

—One serving of cheese is six dice

—One serving of meat or poultry is the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards

—One 3-ounce (84 grams) serving of fish is the size of a checkbook

—One serving of a pancake or waffle is the size of a compact disc

Surprised? Here are some ways to rein in portion sizes:

Write it down. Knowing exactly what you eat on a daily basis is a good first step in monitoring your portion sizes. Keep a food journal or use a food tracking app to help keep you accountable.

Balance your plate. A good, simple rule to remember is to fill your plate with 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent lean protein and 25 percent carbohydrates. This ensures that you’re getting enough of what your body needs while also filling you up. Check out this guide to help you fill an entire plate with the right types of foods and portions.

Go half and half. Restaurants are known for serving giant platters of food (not to mention the constant drink refills). Ask your server to bring a to-go box along with your meal, so you can save half of it for tomorrow. Also, skip the sugary sodas and lemonades in favor of water.

Put the bag away. When you munch on snacks like popcorn or chips, measure out one serving and then put the rest away. Too often we eat straight from the package, and it’s easy to blow through three or four servings that way.

Minimize distractions. Studies show that eating in front of a TV or at a work desk is bad for your waistline. When you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating, you’re not paying attention to whether or not you’re full. On the other hand, eating in a social setting can be healthier, because chatting with your friends becomes more important than shoveling down food.