Learn the Basics of Portion Control

Learn the Basics of Portion Control

When it comes to formulating an effective eating plan for diabetes, the primary objective is tight regulation of blood glucose. Therefore, the size of portions consumed is as important as the foods chosen. Portion control is a matter of personal choice, whereas “serving size” is a standard set by the USDA or FDA to gauge calories and nutritional content. At the same time, the number of carbohydrate servings at any one meal is not purely arbitrary. Learn why portion control matters so much. 

How should diabetics arrive at effective portion sizes?

Diabetics must be aware of the carbohydrate content of a portion of food, the rate at which it causes blood glucose to rise, and its caloric content. Home glucose meters provide important information about how specific amounts of foods affect blood glucose levels; consequently, they are not only monitoring tools, but also learning tools!

How frequently you test blood glucose depends on your particular circumstances. If you have type 2 diabetes and take insulin, you will likely be required to test at least twice daily. If instead you do not use insulin, you may only test every other day. In addition, your physician will help you establish an effective target range for your blood glucose; that range will depend on your age, overall health, and the severity (and type) of your diabetes.

Once you are testing, you can see how different amounts of a particular food affect readings. You will have portion guidelines, but the glucose meter provides feedback in real time about how your body reacts to different amounts of specific foods. Generally, you will want to choose mostly low to moderate glycemic index foods that will support your energy needs, provide a proper balance of micronutrients, and help you maintain a healthy weight long term.

Do I have to measure and weigh my food?

When you are beginning the learning process in diabetes management, you should measure and weigh your food. Several studies have confirmed that adults and children tend to underestimate portions by as much as 15%. If you are doing that consistently, you will gain unwanted pounds and fail to normalize blood glucose.

That’s where quality diet scales and measuring cups and spoons come in. They foster accurate measurement of food portions and help to re-establish a visual connection. Part of the problem, perhaps the primary cause of most type 2 diabetes, is our culture’s fascination with supersized fast food “portions,” which have the unintended consequence of distorting our perception of how much food we are eating at home.

After we have been weighing food for a month or more, we can often relax our protocol and use the opportunity to test how successfully we have reprogrammed ourselves to choose appropriate portions. Once again, the glucose meter tells us how we are doing! It is a wise practice to periodically measure again for a few weeks to strengthen the connection between our eyes and choices.

What will I learn from my weighing and measuring?

Healthful serving sizes and portion sizes are most likely smaller than you had thought. For example, half a cup of cooked veggies, three ounces of meat, half a banana, and one teaspoon of butter each represents one serving! You will also learn to automatically choose less-energy-dense and more-nutrient-dense foods because they keep hunger at bay and most important, they keep you healthy.  

In short, you will develop an entirely new, and sounder, relationship with food. You will appreciate fully the power of each savory mouthful.