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The Portion Control Dilemma: How to Stay Fit at College

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(Photo Credit: Small Kitchen College)

In college, students do a lot of reading. From Aristotle to the Founding Fathers to Adam Smith, we spend a good deal of time turning pages and highlighting important facts worth remembering. Yet, there is something we very rarely take the time to read and consider: nutrition labels' serving sizes.

For many of us, college eating typically fits into three categories: on-the-go dining, all-you-can-eat cafeteria-style dining, or eat-what-we-cook-ourselves dining. While they are each very different, there is a common bond here that makes it difficult for students to recognize what constitutes a proper serving of food.

Dining in the school cafeteria can be particularly challenging when food is served buffet-style. Rather than piling on the calories, it is better to first weigh all the options and then build a plate. "Take your time to make the right meal choices upon entering the dining hall," says Jess Underhill of Fit Chick in the City. "Rushing to grab something to eat can mean grabbing a slice of pizza instead of building a healthier meal of a turkey sandwich and carrot sticks."

Taking the time to enjoy the meal is also an easy way to keep to portions in control. Underhill recommends using time in the cafeteria "to catch up with friends and focus on eating. If you pay attention to what you are putting in your body you're less likely to overeat." Oftentimes when serving ourselves, we think we need to finish everything on our plate. Instead, recognizing when our bodies are full will serve to teach us what amount of food satisfies our hunger.

Not only can portion unconsciousness affect your waistline, it can also affect your wallet. "Our culture definitely eats for fun or as a cure for boredom and that can end up costing you a LOT of money," says Beth Moncel of Budget Bytes. While a box of cereal may say that it serves 10-12, the reality for many will be much fewer, thus making the cost per serving higher. When shopping, Moncel suggests buying "inexpensive 'bulk' ingredients as a base," like pasta, rice or beans. "These items are cheap, filling, healthy (depending), and can be incorporated into a million different dishes."

With so much eating away at our minds in college, there is still no excuse for eating unhealthfully. Whether in the dining hall or in your own kitchen, remember these rules about portion control.

**Tips and Tricks**

1. Remember this. When serving yourself, use these guidelines for proper portions:

Protein (meat, poultry, fish, tofu) - size of your palm

Fruits and Veggies - Size of a baseball

Frozen Yogurt - size of a tennis ball

Breads - 1 Slice of bread or 1/2 muffin

Cereal - Size of a baseball

Peanut Butter and Butter - Tip of your thumb

Pancake - Size of a CD

2. Take the time to measure out portions. Put your measuring cups to use when pouring a bowl of cereal or preparing a pasta dish. Go even further and use Ziploc bags to create individual portion packs of foods such as potato chips and trail mix.

3. Be conscious of your hunger. "I definitely think that people should enjoy their food, but you'll enjoy it ten times more if you're actually hungry when you eat it!" says Moncel. Instead of mindlessly eating a handful of trail mix between classes, ask yourself if you really are hungry or if your eating is motivated by something else.

-- Bethany Imondi for Small Kitchen College

Bethany Imondi, a junior studying Government and English at Georgetown University, admits to only getting five servings from her box of cereal. Read more...