When it comes to eating a little less, an ounce of attention is worth a pound of fad-diet cure.


The trick is to recalibrate your expectations in a marketplace of oversized foods: at restaurants, bagel shops, at grocery stores, and of course, at home. This doesn't mean an everlasting tyranny of measuring cups and kiddie-style portion plates. But a close examination of your habits is the first step to making smaller portions second nature.


1. Consider your food personality, which shapes your strategy.

2. Be mindful of how much you're cooking when you're cooking it.

3. And finally, take an honest look at your plate.


Even the most careful eaters and cooks let their inner portion police take a holiday. And that's when the calories pile on. Here, some help!


Portion Problem: Both work and social life involve meeting for drinks, hanging at bars, and having wine before dinner.

What to Do: The recommendation is no more than one drink for women and 2 for men. That's 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.


Portion Problem: Caveman's counterpart underestimates the calorie count in carbs.

What to Do: Pour cereal into a coffee mug instead of a bowl, and you'll be less likely to overeat. It's the right vessel for a serving of cereal (which varies; check label) and ½ cup low-fat or skim milk. A typical hoagie or sub roll is three to four servings of bread. Hollow out the center, and you'll cut that almost in half. When brown-bagging, make sure you're using a zip-top sandwich bag. At 5 inches square, sandwich bags are sized right for loaf bread. A box of pasta serves 8-10 people, not 4. One cup of cooked noodles is one serving. Load your plate with salad first, and then add the pasta.


Portion Problem: Great cooks add ingredients and serve everything by sight and taste.

What to Do: Free handing can add 250-500 calories to a dish. Use a measuring spoon until your eyeballing is accurate. Be especially careful with butter and oils. Know your sodium sources: fish sauce, sambals, pickles, etc.