Conquer and Control Portion Distortion the Healthy Way

Is there a difference between a portion and a Serving?

The answer is yes. A “portion” is how much food you choose to eat at any time away from home – at a restaurant, from a package or from your home’s kitchen. It’s the amount of food you put on your plate. On the other hand, a “serving” is an amount of a food, such as a cup or an ounce, used in providing dietary guidance (recommendations) or making comparisons among similar foods (such as the description on food label). With that in mind servings and portions are not always the same.

To stay healthy and maintain your weight it’s good to know what sensible portion sizes looks like. Larger portions mean more calories and the extra calories are difficult to burn off. Below is a list of tips for you to use and to teach your children about the amount of food they are to eat and learn what a portion size is.

Food Labels reference to “one serving,” what does it mean?

  • 1 slice of bread is one serving, therefore a sandwich made with two slices of bread are two servings of bread.
  • ½ cup cooked rice or pasta
  • 1 pancake (roughly the size of a CD
  • 1 small piece of fruit (about the size of your fist) or ½ cup
  • ½ cup fruit juice (most small bottle of juice have more than this, make sure to read the label)
  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of margarine (about the size of half your thumb)
  • ½ cup of ice cream (about the size of a baseball)
  • 2 ounces cheese (about the size of a small matchbox)
  • 2-3 ounces meat, chicken or fish (about the size of a deck of cards)

How you can Control Portion Sizes on the Home Front:

  • Select and use smaller plates. Using smaller plates make it look as though there is more food on the plates. It’s an illusion of telling your brain your getting more.
  • Dish it out on a plate instead of eating from a container or a box. Put a handful of nuts or crackers in a 1-cup bowl or small plate instead of reaching into the box.
  • Serve ice cream in a bowl instead of eating it out of the carton.
  • Drink water as soon as you wake up in the morning and before eating your meals. The water will make you feel full and you wont be tempted to over-eat or eat as much.
  • Chew your food thoroughly until it is almost smooth to swallow. The process of eating should take at least fifteen to twenty minutes before the stomach signifies the brain to recognize satiety (you’re full). Wait a few minutes before you go for a second helping. You might find that you no longer need that second helping.
  • Keep it simple and prepare foods that have easy to see portions. You can buy single or individual portions to prevent guesswork.

Eating Out? How you can Control Portions

  • You have the power to question your server to know what you are getting. Restaurant portions have gotten out of hand. Customers want to get good value for their money thus restaurants serve them more food on huge plates. Take stock at what you’re served and compare it to what you know to be a reasonable portion. A good example is pasta portions; restaurants serve several servings of pasta as one portion.
  • Save a half when you get your meal. Ask for a box and physically divide the food into halves. Eat one half and place the other half in the box that can be used for the next day’s lunch.
  • Forego the bread. If you have to have it take a piece and ask the waiter to remove the breadbasket from the table so you won’t be tempted to keep eating it before you meal arrives.
  • Always ask for your salad dressings and sauces on the side so you can pour the amount for yourself.
  • Skip the dessert or share it with your family or you could request a bowl of fresh fruit.

Low-Lactose Mac and Cheese

This is a roux-based mac and cheese recipe. Roux is a paste that is used to thicken sauces, in this case a cheese sauce. A roux is equal parts fat and flour, and here the fat can be either olive oil or margarine. If using margarine, you may opt for a dairy-free version.

When milk is added to the roux, it becomes part of a white sauce. I have cooked with both Lactaid and Stater Bros. brand lactose-free milk. I have heard of people using alternative milks, like soy and coconut, in mac and cheese. If you want to try this, try to get something that doesn’t have sugar added in order to avoid a sweet-tasting sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons margarine or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of lactose-free milk
  • 4 ounces Trader Joe’s Mozzarella Flavor Soy Cheese Alternative (nearly 1 cup diced fine)
  • 1 ounce Cabot Vermont Sharp cheddar
  • 4 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar (about a cup diced fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. You can grate or cut up the cheeses while waiting for the water to boil. Add salt to the boiling water, then add pasta, and cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Melt margarine or heat olive oil in a pot on the stove. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly. Cover every speck of flour in the fat, and keep stirring until the flour taste cooks out.
  3. Add the milk all at once. Stir constantly for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and bubbles.
  4. Lower the heat, and add the cheeses. Stir to incorporate the cheeses into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat off and add the cooked pasta. Stir to combine evenly.

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

You can quickly improvise and omit the ingredients you don’t have as this lunch option is very versatile. My chili varies because I often forget to buy an ingredient at the store but it makes it more fun, having the chili be a little different. The combination of beans and vegetables, paired with cheese and/or sour cream make a filling and wholesome meal. You can add soy ground beef for extra texture and protein.

From start to finish, this recipe takes about 20 minutes.

Here is a list of ingredients (most are exchangeable)

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 can of fire roasted (or regular) tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3/4 Cup of frozen corn
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of kidney beans (or bean medley)
  • 1 can of lentils
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1/3 packet taco seasoning (i use a low sodium version)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup (trust me)
  • ground pepper and salt to taste
  • a dollop of sour cream

Add olive oil and garlic to the pan. Then add chopped onion and sautee for a couple of minutes on medium heat. In goes the chopped green bell pepper, chopped celery, and taco seasoning. Once the onion is caramelized and the bell pepper gets a crisp around the edges, add the canned tomato, beans and lentils. Let simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat. Add the frozen corn, ketchup, and ground pepper. Let simmer for 3-5 more minutes. Take off heat and cover lightly with a lid. While the flavors marinade together, you can take this time to set the table.

Vegetarian Mexican Frittata

Ingredients

  • 8 large eggs
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles or 1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 tomatillos, husked and chopped
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked black beans (rinsed well and drained, if canned)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar (or Mexican blend) cheese
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or bottled salsa

Preparation

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Whisk the eggs with salt, pepper, and dried oregano in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic, serranos or jalapeno, poblano, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until softened, 7-8 minutes.
  5. Return the heat to medium and add the tomatillos, chipotle chile, black beans, cilantro, and oregano, stirring well to combine. Cook until the tomatillos soften and some of the liquid is absorbed, 5-6 minutes.
  6. Re-whisk the eggs and pour slowly and evenly over the vegetable mixture. Tilt the skillet back and forth gently to help the egg penetrate the filling and set on the bottom and sides.
  7. When the top is almost set, but still a little runny, scatter the cheese over the frittata.
  8. Broil until slightly browned on top, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 4 minutes.

Easy Vegetarian Dishes

Cheesy Veggie Quesadillas

What you need:

  • 6 pcs. 9-inch whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cup reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cooking spray

Heat olive oil in a large noon-stick pan then cook squash, zucchini, mushrooms, red bell pepper and onion over medium-high heat for 7 to 9 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat. Coat the same pan with cooking spray then place one wheat tortilla in it. Put about 1/4 cup of cheese over tortilla then top with 3/4 cup of the cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with another 1/8 cup of cheese then top with another tortilla. Cook 2 minutes per side or until golden. Slice into 8 triangles. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.

Easy Meatless Chili

What you need:

  • 5 onions, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cans black kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can light red kidney beans
  • 1 3/4 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen burger-style crumbles
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium-high heat, mix together onions, bay leaves, black kidney beans, dark red kidney beans, light red kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, burger-style crumbles, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine ingredients well. Simmer for 1 hour.

Make Leche Flan Dessert

The Leche Flan is very popular that any celebration is not complete without it, especially during the holidays. It is also very easy to prepare and the ingredients are easy to find. The basic ingredients are egg yolks, sugar, evaporated and condensed milk and flavoring, usually vanilla.

Try this Leche Flan recipe and enjoy this creamy and sweet delight that will keep you wanting for more.

Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

Cooking Ingredients:

For the caramel

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water

For the custard

  • 10 egg yolks
  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 14 oz condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cooking Directions:

  1. To prepare the caramel, dissolve the sugar in water in a saucepan. Caramelize the sugar in low heat by swirling the pan gently without stirring. When you have achieved a light brown color, pour the mixture into the mold. Coat all the parts of the mold, including the sides.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, egg yolks and vanilla extract with a whisk or a blender. Make sure that bubbles aren’t formed. Use the strainer if there are any solid particles.
  3. Pour the mixture in the mold on top of the caramel. Fill it to about an inch thick. Cover the mold with aluminum foil.
  4. Steam for around 30 to 40 minutes. To test if it is already cooked, insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it is done.
  5. Let it cool at room temperature. Loosen the flan by running a knife around the edges of the mold. Place a serving dish on top of the mold, and gently turn it upside down with the caramel on top as a sauce.
  6. Put in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.

Cold Rice Salads

Enjoy these simple cold rice salad recipes anytime. They are a great addition to a healthy diet and create quick and flavorful rice dishes in minutes.

Avocado Tomato Rice Salad

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Combine in a bowl and mix well:

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled wild rice
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup avocado (cubed)
  • 1 scallion (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil, drained and chopped)
  • A drizzle of red wine vinegar (to taste)

To serve: Serve salad on a bed of romaine lettuce leaves.

______________________________________________________

Artichoke Wild Rice Salad

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Combine in a bowl and mix well:

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled wild rice
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
  • 3/4 cup sweet red peppers (diced)
  • 1/4 cup jarred, pickled peperoncini peppers (drained and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive tapenade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid from the artichoke hearts (or as desired)

To serve: Serve this cold rice salad on a bed of fresh spinach leaves.

________________________________________________________

Egg and Rice Salad

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Here’s a different take on egg salad but it is really delicious and filling.

Combine in a bowl and mix well:

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1 hard-boiled egg (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • a few dill pickle slices (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)

To serve: Try serving this cold rice salad over some steamed and chilled asparagus spears dressed with some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Make Classic French Onion Soup

Start with 3 or 4 large onions, preferably of the sweet variety. Other types will do, but the sweet ones are my favorites to work with. Slice them thinly, and toss them into a soup pot with some melted butter and olive oil. Why both oil and butter? The butter adds flavor, and the olive oil stops the butter from burning. Next, add a bit of salt, some sprigs of fresh thyme, two or three crushed garlic cloves, and a splash of water, and turn up the heat.

Starting with high heat and a little extra water will help drive the moisture out of the onions. This is the first step to getting them to that beautiful golden brown color that you are aiming for. Until the water is mostly gone you won’t be able to get to the temperature you need to start the camelization process, because evaporation cools them down too much. However, once the onions are reduced in size and there isn’t much liquid around them, you will need to turn down the heat to prevent them from burning. This is really the only tricky part to making French onion soup, and it is better to err on the side of caution and keep the heat low. That way the only bad thing that happens is that it takes longer to cook the onions.

After the onions reach the desired color (darker is sweeter), you will need to deglaze them. This just means adding a liquid to the pot and then scraping off the cooked bits from the bottom of the pot. White wine is the best for this recipe, and what I do is toss a quarter cup of it in and use a wooden spoon to get the dark bits off the bottom. After the wine has been absorbed or evaporated, I repeat the process three times. This infuses a lot of flavor into the onions.

After the deglazing, add the remaining ingredients. First, stir in a tablespoon or so of Dijon mustard, then add in another half cup of white wine. Last, add 2 quarts of beef stock, or if you want a lighter taste add one quart each of beef and chicken stock. Bring the soup up to a simmer and leave it there for about 15 minutes.

If you want to stop at this point, you will have a wonderful soup just the way it is. But if you want to go all-out you can add the baked cheese topping without too much trouble. First, slice some nice French bread (we may as well stay on theme, right?), and some Gruyere cheese. You can use Swiss cheese instead if you like, but Gruyere is the classic choice. When the soup is done simmering, ladle it into oven-proof onion soup bowls that are sitting on a baking sheet. Add a slice of bread to each bowl and top with some cheese. Put everything under the broiler for a minute or so until the cheese is melted and is just starting to get brown on the edges. Be careful! Burning yourself on one of the bowls would be bad enough, but pouring piping hot soup down your front is altogether unpleasant.

Serve the soup with some extra slices of bread. Make sure to put the bowl and the bread on a plate to prevent burns to either fingers or place mats.

Here are the ingredients listed again for convenience:

3 or 4 large onions;
2 or 3 cloves of garlic;
butter and olive oil;
salt;
a bit of water (maybe a quarter cup);
sprigs of fresh thyme;
cup and a half of white wine;
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard;
2 quarts of beef stock, or 1 quart each of beef and chicken stock;
French bread and Gruyere cheese (optional)

Vegan Chocolate Cake

With that in my mind and having had to deal a few times in the past with some very nice vegan customers, I came up with a real vegan recipe that I will share in this article. It is a nice and moist vegan chocolate cake that can be eaten on its own or with some sort of garnish like vegan chocolate or vanilla sauce or even raspberry jam:

Here below are the ingredients needed for around 4 to 5 cakes of this delicious recipe:

Light whole-wheat plain flour: 220g
Plain cake flour: 225g
Sweet potato flour: 100g (to keep the cake moist)
Baking powder: 18g
Bicarbonate soda: 10g
Cocoa powder: 165g
Salt: 5g
Soya milk: 500g (rice or oat milk can also be used instead)
Corn oil: 260g
Rice malt syrup: 1000g
Apple cider vinegar: 7g
Vanilla essence: 10g

Method:

First turn the oven on as always with the temperature dial set to 180ºC (356ºF). Spray-grease around 4 or 5 cake tins then place a round piece of grease-proof paper on the bottom of each of them. Then start by sifting the plain flour, potato flour, baking powder and bicarbonate soda together, then add the whole-meal plain four last without sifting it. Mix thoroughly. In a saucepan heat the soya milk on low heat. When it is slightly bubbling, add the sifted cocoa powder and whisk well until it is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Combine the other liquid ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the cocoa mixture and combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake moulds. Each cake mould should be filled to around 2/3 of their height. Insert into the pre-heated oven and bake for around 40 minutes. If your oven has a ventilation duct, keep it closed during the 1st half of the baking and then open it for the 2nd half. When a small knife inserted in the chocolate sponge comes out clean, take them out of the oven and let them cool down for a few minutes. When they have cooled down take them out of the tins and turn them over on cooling wire.

Spanish Rice Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 4 cups of water, hot
  • 2 bouillon cubes
  • 2 heaping T salsa (red or green)
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1/2 t salt & pepper
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Heat a large, deep skillet that has a lid over medium high heat and when the pan is hot then add the olive oil. When oil is hot add the rice and the onion and saute until the rice is toasted and lightly brown and the onion is soft, approximately 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and the salsa and saute for 3 minutes, the tomato sauce will start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the first 2 cups of water and while you are waiting for it to start boiling add the bouillon cubes, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic. Continue stirring uncovered to reduce the water and to distribute the bouillion cube and spices. When there is only a small amount of water left in the pan, add the second 2 cups of water and bring that to a boil again. When it finally comes to a rolling boil, give the pan a stir and turn down the heat to low and simmer covered for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Stoves vary so check it after 15 minutes and continue to cook until all the water is gone. Remove cover, stir to fluff the rice and let it rest of a few minutes before serving.

This rice is a great leftover and worth making extra for other meals. It can be turned into a completely different dinner idea by adding a poached egg on top or pieces of grilled chicken.

You can add additional vegetables to this dish to make it your own. Add some green peppers when sauteing the onion or some roasted corn at the end to add a new and unique flavor to your dish.