If you want to lose weight, cutting calories is a good place to start. Don’t worry. . . this doesn’t mean you have to stop eating your favorite foods, but it does mean you’ll have to eat less. One of the best ways to figure out how much you eat is by writing down everything you eat each day in a food journal. Record both what and how much you eat. Do this for at least three days.
Let’s go over some serving size guidelines that can help you keep your portions in check:
Meat, fish, poultry: 3 oz (about the size of the palm of your hand)
Cheese: 1 oz (about the size of your thumb)
Milk, yogurt, fresh vegetables: 1 cup (about the size of a tennis ball)
Bread: 1 slice
Rice or cooked pasta: 1/3 cup
Potato or corn: 1/2 cup
Dry cereal: 3/4 cup
The Plate Method
I encourage you to use the plate method when planning your meals. It’s not only highly recommended, but easy to do! The plate method uses a simple, 9-inch plate to ensure your well- balanced meal remains within your allowance of calories and carbohydrates. Fill half of this plate with two servings of non- starchy vegetable (e.g., tomatoes, peppers, spinach, cucumber, broccoli, asparagus, and lettuce), fill one-quarter of the plate with a starch or whole grain (e.g., brown rice, quinoa), and fill the last quarter with about 3 cooked ounces of lean protein (e.g., chicken breast, fish). One of these plates, when paired with 8 ounces of fat-free milk and a side of fruit, averages about 10 grams of fat, 35 grams of protein, 60 grams of carbs, and 425 calories.
The American Diabetes Association has also laid out a detailed process designed to help you create a healthy plate. It’s simple and effective for both managing diabetes and losing weight. By creating your plate, you can still choose foods you want but at healthier portion sizes. You get larger portions of non-starchy vegetables and smaller portions of starchy foods. And, unlike other diet tools, when you grow bored of certain foods, the plate method lets you try and experiment with new foods within each food category.
Using your dinner plate, put a line down the middle of the plate. Then on one side, cut it in half again so you’ll have three sections on your plate.
Fill the largest section (half the plate) with non-starchy vegetables.
In one of the small sections (a quarter of the plate), put grains and starchy foods.
In the other small section, put your protein.
Add a serving of fruit, a serving of dairy, or both (if your meal plan allows).
Choose healthy fats in small amounts. Try nuts, seeds, avocado, and vinaigrettes as healthy additions to salads.
To complete your meal, add a low-calorie drink such as water, unsweetened tea, or coffee.
Plate Method Tips
Liven up your plate with a variety of colorful vegetables. Since half your plate is vegetables, I encourage you to get creative. If you’re still hungry after you finish your plate, you can curb your appetite and boost your vegetable serving count with a leafy green salad and low-calorie dressing.
Milk and Juice
Choose juice with no added sugar or low-fat milk as beverage options. Although these have more carbohydrates and calories than the other recommended drinks, they also contain desired minerals and vitamins. Milk is also a good protein source. As with most foods, portion size is important. If you drink too much, the calories and carbohydrates can quickly add up. Be sure to pay attention to the amount you drink of these higher calorie and carb beverages.
Account for the additional calories and carbs in your meal plan and select skim or low-fat 1% milk instead of whole or 2%. In addition to valuable calcium and vitamin D, there are roughly 80 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates in 8 ounces of skim milk. For lactose-free options, choose lactaid, almond milk, rice milk, or fortified soy milk.
Always read juice container labels. Check to ensure you purchase 100% juice with no added sugar. There are typically 50 or more calories and 15 grams of carbs in a 1/2 cup of juice.
If you want to cut back on carbohydrates, vegetable juice is a good alternative to fruit juice. An 8-ounce cup of vegetable juice has roughly 50 calories and 10 grams of carbs.
Just because food is often the center of the diabetes discussion doesn’t mean you can ignore beverages. Drinks can and do affect blood glucose and body weight. Zero-calorie or low- calorie drinks are recommended. Examples of these include low-calorie drink mixes or packaged drinks, diet soda, unsweetened coffee, unsweetened tea, and water.
To enjoy a refreshing, flavorful drink, try adding a bit of lime or lemon juice to a glass of water.
These drinks have few or no carbohydrates and calories. Their alternatives, sugary drinks, will increase blood glucose and add unwanted calories—sometimes several hundred in one serving! Examples of sugary drinks include sweet tea, energy drinks, fruit drinks, fruit punch, and regular soda. One 12-oz can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, about 40 grams of carbohydrates, and roughly 150 calories! But don’t be fooled, sugary fruit drinks such as fruit punch contain almost as much, with 30 grams of carbohydrates and 100 or more calories.
If you’re bored by the thought of only drinking water, mix it up with some refreshing unsweet tea. There are several varieties of tea—herbal, green, and black—and each can be served hot or iced. Sparkling and infused water are also enjoyable alternatives to water. You can make infused water at home by adding cucumbers, strawberries, or herbs (e.g., mint), to water and cooling it in the refrigerator.
You can find other low-calorie drinks and drink mixes in a variety of flavors. These can act as healthier substitutes for traditional versions of fruit punch, lemonade, or flavored iced teas. Like diet sodas, these beverages replace added sugar with low-calorie sweeteners. Most have fewer than 10 grams of carbohydrates and just 5 to 10 calories per serving.