THE BLOG
09/21/2013 09:06 am ET | Updated Nov 21, 2013

Buying in Bulk? Easy Tips That Equate to Better Portion Control

Yesterday, a great article hit the op-ed section of the New York Times. In it, the author discussed the overeating habits of Americans. I agree completely that Americans seem to struggle more than other cultures when it comes to eating more than we need!

One point that was brought up in the article was the challenges associated with buying from big warehouse stores. Yes, they can be a challenge for sure. All the fabulous samples you encounter when you walk the aisles -- well, that alone can make someone with a empty stomach go overboard (tip number one, eat before you go).

But just because you buy in bulk doesn't mean you have to eat in bulk. In fact, buying in bulk can actually help you reach your goals to healthy living by making healthy foods more budget-friendly and by giving you the tools needed to control portions. For most of us though, we grab and go. This, as it turns out, can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to portion control. A little planning, however, goes a long way, and even in the biggest of stores, with the biggest of portions, there are tactics you can incorporate into your shopping trip that could amount to a healthier eating plan. Here are a few to consider!

Make Your Own Trail Mix Bags

This snack takes only minutes to put together yet provides a week's worth of on-the-go energy! Purchase nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate chips and mix together in a large bowl. Then take individual sandwich bags and measure out 1/4 cup of trail mix for each bag. There you have it: pre-portioned trail mix bags that you can grab and go every day. Compared to an individual energy bar, your fabulous mix will be much cheaper and healthier too, as both nuts and dark chocolate have been linked to a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. Try pre-portioning chips, pretzels, and popcorn, and be sure to store the excess out of sight -- in the back of the pantry, not at eye level. Never underestimate the power of the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" when it comes to controlling how much you eat!

Purchase Foods That You Have to Work Harder For

Peanuts or pistachios in shells, popcorn kernels to cook on the stove instead of microwave, and foods that need to be peeled and/or cut all take away mindless "autopilot" eating opportunities. For example, peeling and eating an orange will cost you approximately 80 calories and is a bigger time commitment, whereas downing a glass of orange juice will cost you many more calories within a few seconds.

Grab a Glass Bowl to Help You Eat More Produce

Take advantage of the large portions of fruits and vegetables by placing them in a glass bowl on the counter. One study showed that doing something as simple as displaying fruits or vegetables helped to increase healthy snacking amongst participants.

Use Food Storage Containers to Your Benefit

When you're storing leftovers, put them in small, individual size containers instead of in one huge one. In fact, you can go a step further and pack leftovers before you sit down to eat your meal. That way, there won't be extra food on the table to tempt you to overeat.

Buy Appetizer Plates OR a New Plate Set You Love With Great Salad Plates, and Use Them

Studies show that the smaller the plate (and even the utensils), the smaller the portions.

Purchase Your Pizza in Individual Slices

Foregoing the entire pie and buying your fresh or frozen pizza in slices helps to avoid overdoing it with America's favorite food.

Stock Up on Water or Naturally Flavored Seltzer Water

Having a glass of water before a meal helps to fill you up before you dive into your plate. Most stores sell devices that you can use to make your own seltzer water as well. A great gift for anyone trying to kick their sugar drinking habits!

By the way, I wore a pedometer to my local warehouse club last night and walked each and every aisle. At the end of my shopping trip, I walked a mile! That mile sure did help to offset the calories I had in the samples I tried along the way!

For more by Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D., click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

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