When I was a kid, I was a speed eater. My dad would tell me and my siblings to chew our food 30 times before swallowing, but we ignored his advice and his good example (he is the slowest eater I have ever met). I did learn to eat more slowly as a grown-up. It wasn’t something I decided to do all at once—there was no great moment of awakening—it was just something that I learned to do over time, with various strategies such as putting my utensils down between each bite.

Eating slowly is good for your digestion and it helps you to not overeat. And that’s the way my dad eats at all times—at home, at restaurants, alone, with others, during meals, and during dessert. He loves whipped cream éclairs, napoleons, chocolate, and more, but you won’t see him eat a whole bag of potato chips while watching TV. He doesn’t engage in mindless snacking.

I wrote about mindless snacking and my dad once before and what got me thinking about it again was a recent dinner I had at a Mexican restaurant. I was thinking how odd it is to eat chips before your meal. I guess it’s like eating the bread they serve you at other restaurants.

I don’t know anyone who eats chips before dinner at home. It’s a funny image because in most cases chips seem to be a snack. Even when my mom used to make us a Mexican meal at home, she didn’t serve us a bowl of chips beforehand. I suppose chips are sometimes served in homes before a meal in the case of get-togethers—chips and dip are a common snack served as an appetizer at a party. (At our house, we’ll put out veggies and hummus instead of chips and creamy dips.)

Many years ago, I stopped eating the chips they serve at Mexican restaurants. My dad eats the chips. But, unlike many others, he eats a few and then stops. If you have the willpower to do that, that’s the best way to manage not only the Mexican restaurant bowl of chips, but eating in general—eating in moderation instead of mindlessly overeating.

A good strategy to help make that happen—at home or at a restaurant—is to grab a few and put them on your plate as your portion. And then don’t take more.

Similarly, with the bowl of bread they give you at restaurants. I don’t eat much bread, and I rarely eat bread with my dinner at home, so it’s special when we are out; a treat. Instead of butter, I’ll ask for olive oil to dip it in. (I also learned that from my dad many years ago, and now they offer olive oil at many restaurants, especially Italian places.) That makes me feel better than using butter, but it also can result in my eating more bread because it feels like I’m eating something good for my health in moderation (the olive oil) and because it tastes so good. So, I have to be sure to take some bread and put it on my bread plate as my portion—and then stick to that. Even if it’s whole grain bread (which it rarely is at restaurants), portion control is important for good health.

What are your good habits for portion control? Join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,