The key to losing weight in 2019 may have less to do with what you eat, and more to do with how much you eat.
Choosing the right portions of different food groups is the easiest place to start when it comes to shedding pounds, says nutritionist and dietitian Lisa Young. In her new book, “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” she dismisses trendy but ultimately unsustainable fad diets that have followers banishing carbs — or consuming gobs of fat.
“People think they can’t have the food they love,” says Young, 56, who teaches nutrition at NYU and lives on the Upper East Side. “You can [eat] your favorite foods, just not all at once,” she says — and in limited amounts.
Young has been speaking out about portion control since the 1990s and made a cameo appearance in the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me.” She also testified in support of then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed big-soda ban, which aimed to limit the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces.
Clients Young has treated have lost up to 100 pounds by employing her guidelines, which are rooted in mapping out your plate by portion size. At each meal, produce should take up half of your plate or more, although you can have unlimited fruits and veggies throughout the day if you so choose. Starches such as bread or potatoes can take up about a quarter of your plate, as can protein from meat or meat alternatives.
“You can have your carbs, you can have your meat,” she says. “It’s about knowing which portions you have to have less of.”
And that’s where things can get tricky. When they first come to her, for example, many of Young’s clients believe they’re eating a single serving of cereal — about a cup — when in actuality they’re eating at least two or three times that, she writes.
On Young’s plan, the proper starch (which includes grains and starchy veggies) portion should be four to six a day. She reminds clients that one serving of cold cereal is 1 cup, a serving of corn is one ear, and a serving of sweet potato or legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or split peas, is ¹/₂ cup. And yes, you can still have a sandwich, but consider preparing it open-faced so you’re having one serving of starch rather than two.
The healthiest daily allotment of meat or meat alternative is two to three servings. A serving of beef is about 4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. Tofu or tempeh can be a whole cup as a serving. Two or three eggs is also about one serving of protein.
When it comes to fats, she advises two to three servings daily. And a serving is, again, smaller than you think. One serving of avocado is just a quarter of the fruit, and when it comes to nuts, limit yourself to just a ¹/₄ cup. Dairy also is appropriate in smaller doses; just two to three servings a day. One serving is about the equivalent of a cup of milk, two slices of American cheese, or 8 ounces of yogurt.
Once you’ve mastered portion control, considering the types of food you’re eating can increase weight loss. For instance, opt for leaner meat, fish or plant-based protein more often than fat-rich meats such as bacon or steak. Think of ways to get more fiber — which makes you feel full and aids digestion — into your diet, such as opting for brown rice instead of white, and whole-wheat bread rather than white. Nonstarchy veggies such as Brussels sprouts, carrots and peppers will also satiate you more than starchy ones such as potatoes, butternut squash or corn, which contain more calories and carbs — and less fiber.
But you can’t really go wrong as long as you load your plate — at least half of it — with vegetables and fruit, Young says.
“When you fill up your plate with veggies, not only are you getting good nutrition, it makes it much easier for you to [visualize] the healthy portion sizes of starch and protein,” she says.
Young’s portion passion has been a career-long one. In the late ’90s, she studied the history of the fast-food industry’s portion sizes, and noticed they were getting bigger, from as little as 7 ounces of soda — the only size McDonald’s offered when it opened in the ’50s — to as much as 30 ounces at the chain today.
“Everyone was fighting about the fats or the carbs, but I was just watching the portions get bigger and bigger,” Young says.
Ultimately, she says, unhealthy portion sizes are now culturally ingrained — and she wants to change that.
“I want people to maintain a normal life,” she says. “Entirely cutting people off certain foods, or throwing out the good stuff — it’s not sustainable.”
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