Here's What a Portion-Controlled Holiday Meal Actually Looks Like
Nick Ferrari for Men's Fitness
The holiday season is both fortunately and unfortunately synonymous with marathon-style eating. On one hand, we're so excited to dive into some mashed potatoes, gravy, casserole, cinnamon buns, eggnog, and so much more; on the other hand, we know we're going to immediately regret it the moment our waistlines expand. We know there's that whole thing called "moderation" that we'd rather treat like that second cousin at the holiday table we don't know that well, but this year, we're getting serious.
To help us stick to a portion-controlled meal this season (and going forward), we sought help from Maria Bella, founder of Top Balance Nutrition in NYC. But before we lay out for you how much of each type of food you should eat, Bella set some important ground rules to follow at your meal. First things first, she suggests eating a protein-packed snack (like a boiled egg with hummus) before heading into your party. This way, you'll be less hungry and less likely to put yourself into a food coma. Next, she suggests beginning your plate with a protein and ending with the carbs. For example, start with the turkey and end with mashed potatoes—you'll be more likely to eat less of the latter. Be sure to also drink plenty of water throughout the meal to stay hydrated. Finally, when it's dessert time, Bella suggests taking three bites of a treat (you always remember the first and last bite). We know, we know, impossible when there's cheesecake and brownies around, but after a filling meal, it'll at least fulfill your sweet tooth.
Now, on to the portions!
For oils and fats and anything that has a creamy consistency (like butter), the rule of thumb is well, just that. Don't take any more than the size of your thumb, or a small dice.
The recommended portion size for lean protein (emphasis on the lean—fatty beef won't serve you well if you're vying to be healthy) is a deck of cards, but Bella, a true advocate for healthy (and filling!) protein, says you can definitely indulge a bit more in this area.
Bella says that because there are generally so few calories in a serving of vegetables (specifically greens), you can absolutely scoop up on more than just a baseball-sized amount (or the size of your fist) during your meal. For fruit, Bella suggests having two fistfuls per day.
When it comes to whole grains like rice or quinoa, eat a half cup (cooked), or the size of a cue ball. However, Bella suggests sticking to one starch per meal (like one piece of whole grain bread or a half cup of rice). Hey, we didn't say watching your portions would necessarily be fun!
For potatoes, stick with a computer mouse-sized portion, but don't reach for the peeler! Bella says the skin is where all of the fiber is found. We love our creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, but can definitely get on board with a nice baked potato instead.
Listen, we love a glass of wine as much as the next person, but if you're truly going to watch your portions this holiday season, you've got to cut corners. Bella says that the portion size of a glass of wine is five ounces (we know, not exactly the holiday "cheer" you were hoping for). To make the task of measuring a little easier, try out the Wine-Trax Measuring Wine and Beverage Glass (but if you have a second or third glass, we won't tell anyone).
How do you avoid overindulging during the holidays? Tell us your tricks below!