5. Portion Power

Portion sizes are very important when you’re trying to eat a healthy diet and control your calorie intake. The portion sizes you consume contribute directly to the number of calories and the amount of fat and other nutrients that you consume per day. Don’t forget that even though you need a few more calories while pregnant, you are still not eating for two adult people. You can eat healthily and still be eating too much. To follow the guidelines of the Food Guide Pyramid correctly, you must be aware of the portion sizes that you eat.

Visualize Your Portions

To follow a healthy diet, you don’t need to necessarily weigh and measure all of your food each day. But you do need a general idea of how much you should be eating. Keep in mind that portion sizes are meant as general guidelines—the goal is to come close to the recommended serving sizes on average over several days. Be careful of letting your stomach do the portioning. Skipping meals can lead to ravenous hunger at the next meal, which makes it difficult to correctly portion your foods. To help estimate your portion sizes, use these visual comparisons:

• A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards.

• A medium potato is about the size of a computer mouse.

• One cup of rice or pasta is about the size of a fist or a tennis ball.

• An average bagel should be the size of a hockey puck or a large to-go coffee lid.

• A cup of fruit or a medium apple or orange is the size of a baseball.

• One-half cup of chopped vegetables is about the size of three regular ice cubes.

• Three ounces of grilled fish is the size of your checkbook.

• One ounce of cheese is the size of four dice.

• One teaspoon of peanut butter equals one dice, and two tablespoons is about the size of a golf ball.

• One ounce of snack foods—such as pretzels—equals a large handful.

• A thumb tip equals 1 teaspoon, three thumb tips equal 1 tablespoon and a whole thumb equals 1 ounce.

To help you eat only the portions you measure out, portion out your food before bringing it to the table. You will be less likely to eat too much when serving bowls are not on the table. Another clever trick is to use a smaller plate to make your portion sizes look bigger.

6. Dining Out

It is nice to get out of the kitchen once in awhile and let someone else do the cooking. According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2000, the average annual household expenditure away from home was about $855 per person. About half of all adults eat at a restaurant on a typical day, and almost 54 billion meals are eaten in restaurants, at school, and at work cafeterias each year. But dining out can present challenges to your goal of eating healthily during your pregnancy.

The more meals that are eaten away from home, the bigger impact they have on your total daily nutritional intake. It is much easier to splurge or lose sight of your overall eating pattern when you eat out frequently. All of this eating out generates nutritional challenges that include larger-than-normal portion sizes, too many calories, too much fat and sodium, too few vitamins and minerals, and too little fiber.

Your Dining-Out Guidelines

Even though dining out can present some challenges, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat out occasionally. It simply means that you have to put some thought into the choices that you make when dining out. It also means that you will have to put a greater effort to balance out the rest of your day’s intake. When you are at a restaurant, be the first to order your meal so you are not tempted by what other people order. Make an effort to eat slowly and stop eating before you feel too stuffed. You can ask the server to remove your plate once you feel full. If there is food left on your plate, ask for a doggie bag. Try splitting a meal with a dining companion, or bring half your meal home in a doggie bag for lunch the next day. In fact, you can even ask for a doggie bag to come with your meal so you can pack half of it away and not be tempted to eat the whole thing.

Start with easy changes, like choosing low-calorie salad dressings. You can also ask for dressing, gravies, sauces, and condiments (like mayonnaise) to be served on the side. This way, you have more control over how much you use. Small changes can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask exactly how foods are prepared or to ask to have them prepared in a certain way. When choosing entrees, opt for plain meats and vegetables instead of breaded and/or deep-fried dishes, and avoid sauces and ingredients such as hollandaise, butter, cheese, and cream sauces that can add extra calories and fat.

Menu terms that are clues to lower-fat foods include the following words: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, roasted, steamed, stir-fried, poached, or cooked in its own juices. Menu clues that a food is likely to be higher in fat include these: alfredo, au gratin, cheese sauce, battered, fried, béarnaise, buttered, creamed, French fried, hollandaise, pan fried, sautéed, scalloped, with gravy, or with sauce. Menu clues that a food may be higher in sodium include these words: barbecued, in broth, pickled, smoked, teriyaki, Creole sauce, or soy sauce.

Request substitutes for higher-fat side dishes. For example, if your meal comes with French fries, ask for a baked potato with salsa, a brothy soup, side salad, or fresh fruit bowl instead. Be careful of appetizers before your meal that can really add up in fat and calories. Instead, choose fresh fruit, vegetable juice, marinated vegetables, raw vegetables with salsa dip, or seafood cocktail. Be very careful of beverages such as alcohol and soft drinks that can add tons of empty calories to your meal. You best bet is water with a twist of lemon—and keep it coming, especially if you’re trying to avoid the bread basket! Most importantly, balance your dining-out habits with physical activity. Being physically active is what helps burn those calories. After you get home from eating out, take a walk.

Plan for Dining Out

Planning ahead for a meal out can put you on the right path to a healthier eating experience. Plan your day so that you can fit the restaurant meal into your whole day’s eating plan. Nutritional intake is what you take in over the course of an entire day, not just one meal. Never skip meals during the day just to “save up” for your night out. If you arrive at the restaurant ravenous, you will probably eat more than you intended to, and you will probably have a harder time making healthier choices. Instead, eat light meals throughout the day, and have a snack such as yogurt or fruit in the late afternoon. Choosing a restaurant that prepares foods to order will help give you more control of what you eat and will make it easier to make special requests. This means passing up the all-you-can-eat buffets. Do some homework, and call ahead to a restaurant you plan to visit to ask about the menu and how food is prepared.

An order of twelve buffalo wings can weigh in at up to 700 calories and 48 grams. An order of eight stuffed potato skins with sour cream can add up to 1,260 calories and 95 grams of fat. A fried onion bloom (serving size of three cups) with dipping sauce can add up to 2,130 calories and 163 grams of fat. Plan on skipping the appetizer and just going straight to the healthy meal.

Obstacles at the Salad Bar

The salad bar always seems like a safe bet, but be aware that it can be a pitfall of excessive calories and fat if you are not careful. Choosing a large variety of vegetables and fruits can add to your day’s intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, depending on what foods you choose, your salad bar plate can still add up to 1,000 calories or more. Excessive calories at the salad bar usually come from regular salad dressings, cheese, bacon bits, croutons, nuts or seeds, olives, and other side dishes such as macaroni salad, pasta salad, creamy soups, and even desserts. To help control your trip to the salad bar and make it a healthy one, use plenty of fresh vegetables as the base of your salad. By choosing dark-green leafy lettuces, such as romaine and/or spinach, over iceberg lettuce, you can add more essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Stick with lower-fat or fat-free salad dressings if you tend to eat a little salad with your dressing. Add protein to your salad plate by adding lean meats such as turkey, chicken breast, or egg whites; legumes such as chickpeas; or crabmeat. Add low-fat cottage cheese, other low-fat cheeses, and yogurt to add a calcium boost. Go easy on those mayonnaise-based salads, such as potato or macaroni salad, that always seem to be there, and stick to fresh fruits for dessert.

7. Fumbling for Fast Food

How many times have you been out running around—or home but not in the mood to do any cooking—and decided to stop at the first fast-food place you saw? Fast foods are more popular than ever before, and many now offer a variety of healthy menu alternatives. Still, frequenting fast-food places can lead to a higher intake of fat, calories, sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol. It can also cut into your chances of getting in all the food groups you need each day, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. Some pregnant women may lose their taste altogether for that fast-food burger, while others may begin to crave them.

When choosing your fast-food entrée, choose smaller burgers without the cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, and special sauces. All these toppers add more saturated fat and cholesterol to your meal, not to mention calories. Use lower-fat toppings such as ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauces, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Better yet, go for the grilled chicken breast or a sensible salad. If you choose to eat chicken or fish, stay away from the deep-fried versions, which will be high in fat and calories. A grilled, roasted, or broiled piece of chicken or fish is the healthiest choice.

Toppings can add up quickly, as follows:

• One packet of mayonnaise can have as much as 95 calories and 10 grams of fat.

• One packet of tartar sauce can add as much as 160 calories and 17 grams of fat to your fish sandwich.

• A 2-ounce packet of ranch dressing can have as much as 290 calories and 30 grams of fat.

• Just one slice of American cheese can add 50 calories and 5 grams of fat.

Subs can make for a healthy, low-fat sandwich when prepared on whole-grain bread and topped with mustard, vegetable oil, and/or low-fat cheese. Go for the cooked turkey or chicken breast instead of the higher-fat processed meats such as salami or bologna. Load up your sub with vegetables such as lettuce, tomato, onions, and peppers. Wraps are also a good choice. These are usually made from pita bread or flour tortillas and stuffed with chicken, beans, and/or vegetables. Again, beware of the added cheese, dressings, and sauces that can turn a simple sub into a high-fat and high-calorie nightmare. Ask for half the cheese, and ask for the dressing and sauce on the side so you can choose a lower-fat or fat-free version.

Not sure how your favorite fast-food menus rate? Most fast-food restaurants have Web sites that post nutritional information on their foods. Check them out before you head off to the drive-through!

We’re a country of people who love our French fries. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a health food now that fast-food restaurants are telling us their fries are fried in vegetable oil. These oils are hydrogenated to make them more solid at room temperature, which means they are loaded with saturated fat. The best choice for a side dish is a garden salad with low-fat or fat-free dressing or a baked potato loaded with salsa.

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