The general (science-supported) consensus in our well-credentialed team is that opting for three nutritious, substantial daily meals, with limited snacks, based on hunger level, just makes sense. It works for blood-sugar control, keeps hunger hormones steadier, helps you feel fuller after meals, and, it’s worth noting, allows you to comfortably fit into the culturally accepted eating schedule.
Habit 3: Control your portions
Mastering portion control is a great skill that can help you regulate your food intake without counting and measuring everything.
Here’s how to control your own portions in a sensible but not obsessive way:
1 Put it on a plate
Instead of noshing out of a bag or grabbing food off a platter, make a decision about what you want to eat and put it on a plate. Take a look at it, so you know what you’re eating. This gives your stomach and your brain a chance to confer and fully, consciously register that you are eating something. It also helps you decide if the amount of food on your plate matches your hunger level. If you poured a whole bag of crisps onto a plate and they were piled high and falling onto the floor, you might be less likely to eat the whole lot than if you were eating them directly from the bag with no visual cue to your portion size .
2 Make that plate a side plate
A dinner plate can be pretty big, but a side or salad plate is a good size for smaller meals, especially for more calorifically dense foods. A study compared two groups of people eating the same amount of food. One group ate from a small plate and the other ate from a regular dinner plate. The people eating from the small plate reported feeling fuller and more satisfied after the meal than the people eating from the large plate. However, this effect was less pronounced in people who were technically considered “overweight” in the study, suggesting that this doesn’t work for everyone. The small-plate technique is for helping to normalize portion sizes; it’s not a way to trick you into not eating enough.
3 Use calorific and nutritional density to make food decisions
Vegetables are nutritionally dense but not calorifically dense, so you can eat more of them and get full faster. Foods such as lean meats and low-fat dairy products are nutritionally dense and moderately calorifically dense, so they are good for eating in moderate amounts. High-fat, high-sugar foods, such as avocados, nuts and sweets, though delicious and often quite nutritious, are calorie dense and may or may not be nutritionally dense. For balance, these are best eaten in smaller quantities.
4 Log your food at first
Logging your food intake can help you see if you’re defaulting to foods that aren’t very nutritious, or if you’re eating more sugar than you intend, or anything else. Multiple research studies have shown that people who track their daily consumption lose more weight.
Habit 4: Unprocess your diet
Processed foods contain a lot of highly refined ingredients, and even food chemicals. They are engineered to be so delicious that they are hard to resist, and while they are fine some of the time (fun foods!), they are a lot less nutritious, less filling, and the way they are formulated can actually make people hungrier after eating them.
By contrast, when you eat whole, unprocessed food, you can eat bigger portions for the same number of calories. Unprocessed foods (fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains) also tend to be much higher in micronutrients and fibre, so you get a more nutritious bang for your buck.
Nutrition experts generally agree that the healthiest dietary patterns are those that are primarily whole-food based (fresh meat and fish are whole foods, by the way): the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diets, and so-called paleolithic/ancestral diets.
Habit 5: Lose the labels
When you think of a chocolate-chip cookie, what words come to mind? Delicious? Sinful? Indulgent? Bad? Heavenly? Fattening? These are all labels.
People like to classify and categorize things – it helps us understand the world. But when we start putting value judgments on foods (or anything else), such as “desserts are bad”, “vegetables are good”, “sugar is evil”, or “whole food is virtuous”, we distort our perception of these foods .