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Senior Health

Adopt New Strategies for Smaller Meals

It is not easy to shift gears from cooking for a family to cooking for just one or two. The first step is to know the appropriate amount of food to buy for two people. An Ohio State University Extension fact sheet, "Grocery Shopping for One or Two," can help. It lists a dozen or so types of vegetables and nearly as many meats with suggested amounts to purchase when planning meals for two people. For example, one-half to three-quarters of a pound of green beans is plenty for two, as is one pound of broccoli or asparagus. For meats, one-half to two-thirds of a pound of ground beef or sausage is enough for two, while a 3- to 4-pound roast will last for two to three meals.
 
Another OSU Extension fact sheet, "Cooking for One or Two," offers guidance once you are in the kitchen. One idea is to use smaller pans and baking dishes. For casseroles and similar dishes, check for doneness five to 10 minutes sooner than normal to account for the smaller amount.
 
In addition to cooking less, portion control once the food is ready for the plate can help combat weight gain. An easy way to do that is to use the "Plate Method." The basic idea is to fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein and one-quarter with a starch, such as rice, beans, peas, potatoes or corn. Use the remaining half for non-starchy (generally low-calorie) vegetables.
 
Using a smaller plate is recommended: An 8- or 9-inch salad plate is about the right size for proper portion sizes; today's larger 12-inch dinner plates are just too big. You'll be surprised: Studies have shown that people feel more satisfied with less food when it is served on smaller plates.
 
How to fill up that half-plate with vegetables? Don't think you need to limit yourself to just one type of vegetable. Nutrition experts recommend eating a variety of vegetables in a wide range of colors, because the color of a vegetable is a good indicator of the health benefits it offers. So, varying it up is a good idea. Try a serving of cooked greens on one corner and a helping of roasted cauliflower on the other, or grill up some yellow summer squash to be served next to fresh tomato slices from the garden. Your plate will look beautiful, and your body will thank you for it.
 
This article originally appeared in Chow Line (8/15/10), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2010.

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Last Reviewed: Sep 08, 2010

Julie  Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD Julie Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD
Director of Human Nutrition Dietetic Internship
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University