Fitness Advice for the "Average Joe"

By Paul Kim (Silicon Valley Entrepreneur & Certified Personal Trainer)

Applying Portion Control: Grubbing Down without Going Down in Flames

6 Comments

“Ain’t no party like a D-Fong Party”… seriously, my good friend David Fong always has the best food at his parties, hands down. He also happens to own a Sonoma Chicken in Almaden Valley, San Jose, which is perfect because he loves food, wines, and spirits, and he’s very generous about sharing. So generous, in fact, that you have to be careful when you’re eating or drinking with him because your calorie meter can literally spin like a Vegas slot machine. Yesterday, he had a birthday event for one of his kids… and here’s a sampling of the food and multiple different kinds of wines and beers that were served in near-limitless fashion:

The menu included a full rotisserie pig (crispy skin), Korean Kalbi beef spareribs, baked salmon, chicken curry, shrimp & veggie stew, egg rolls w/ sweet chili sauce, stuffed mushrooms, mac & cheese, rice, salad, bread rolls, a wide assortment of fruits (melons, mangoes, strawberries, grapes, etc.), chocolate mousse with gummi bear toppings, jelly pudding cake, regular birthday cake, and a wide assortment of drinks, juices, beers, and various red/white wines.

When I look at this, I first get really hungry, then my brain begins to calculate the most efficient strategy to enjoy the food without busting my caloric budget for the whole week in one sitting 🙂 In general, I try not to let any meal be more than 40% of my daily caloric budget. For example, if I’m on a 2,500 daily calorie budget, I try not to let any meal account for more than 1,000 calories. Now, this is REALLY HARD at certain events, especially at a D-Fong event… I’m sure everyone reading this can relate. When you’re at events like this, unless you have really strict discipline, you will likely exceed your caloric budget for the meal, which just means that you will need to adjust the rest of your meals for the day to compensate (in some cases, you may have to adjust your meals for future days as well).

Basically, there are just a few important guidelines to follow when eating at a “take-no-prisoners” buffet like this:

  1. The most important thing is PORTION CONTROL!!! When there are so many options and so much variety of foods, it’s easy to over-do it… by the time you get through the buffet line, your plate is literally overflowing with food. Instead, the right strategy is to take just a little portion of each item that you want. In fact, just take ONE OR TWO small pieces from everything you like. Even when you take just a little bit of each item, I guarantee that your plate will be pretty packed by the end of the line. If by chance you are short on food, you can always go back for more, so take it easy on the portions and go more for variety. Portion control is also particularly applicable to a couple of culprits that usually contribute to taking in too many calories at these types of events:
    • Alcohol. Alcohol is deceptively high in calories, especially when you drink it in large quantities at social events. This is my weakness too. Especially when David comes around and practically pours the wine or liquor down your throat (God bless you, bro)… what I did today was to resist the temptation to drink any beer before the meal, although a bottle of Fat Tire was really seducing me and calling my name… instead, I had some white wine with my meal to enjoy. This way, I didn’t go overboard on my drinking.
    • Cakes, pastries, ice cream, desserts. These are loaded with fats/trans-fats and sugar, which usually make them very high in calories. However, if you’re at certain events, like a birthday party, it’s often hard not to eat at least a small piece of the cake. So again, if you must eat this, then take just a small sliver. Basically, what I do is allot myself a dessert budget so that the desserts combined do not exceed about 1/2 of a single portion. So if I’m going to eat a chocolate mousse, a piece of cake, and ice cream at one event, then I would take a very small portion of each so that collectively they add up to about half a portion of a dessert.
  2. Drain oil from oily foods and cut off excess fat.  For example, I always take tissues or napkins and “pat down” and drain excess oil from fatty meats (e.g. beef, pork), sausages, etc. to help reduce the fat that I am taking in. It may seem a bit awkward at first, but when you look at the grease that’s trapped on your napkins as opposed to inside your body, you will be happy to have done it. Same thing with excess fat on meat… can you imagine that hanging from your butt or your thighs? Cut it off and don’t put it into your body.
  3. Try to avoid certain foods altogether.
    1. Deep-fried foods. These are loaded with fats & trans-fats and are not only bad for you, but they can easily take you over your caloric budget in a split second. If you really must eat it, just take a really small piece.
    2. Soft drinks or other sugary drinks should also be avoided because they uselessly add to calories without making you full or adding any meaningful nutrition. DRINK WATER, it’s really good for you! I always get annoyed when I see parents teaching their kids to drink too much soda or even artificially sweetened juice… it’s just such useless calories that contribute to childhood obesity.

The plate above is what I brought back to my seat to eat. In my head, I was targeting not exceeding 1,000 calories. As such, I just took smaller portions from a variety of different foods. Now, given that I had not had pork skin in so long, I decided to take some, knowing that it is packed with insane levels of fat. Also, I was a bit hesitant about taking any of the fried egg rolls, but I decided to put it on my plate. After eating this meal, I quickly emailed myself a short list of what I ate, so that I could track the calories later. After doing the math at home, here’s a breakout of the calories from this one plate:

  • White Rice: ¼ cup  – 60 calories. I intentionally took just a little bit of rice because there is so much food here to eat, so I would rather get my calories from the other foods.
  • Korean BBQ ribs (Kalbi): 1 + 1/3 ribs broken out into four pieces – 350 calories.
  • Roasted Pork (5 ounces, including ~1 oz of crispy skin): 390 calories
  • Salmon (2 ounces): 100 calories.
  • Chicken Curry (just 1 piece of meat with a little sauce): 40 calories.
  • Shrimp: 3 pieces. 55 calories.
  • Egg Roll (1): 130 calories.
  • Drink: water. 0 calories.

As you can see, the total came out to 1,125 calories (125 more than my target of 1,000 calories, max for this meal). Now, what could I have done to not exceed my caloric budget? First, under normal circumstances, I would NEVER eat pork skin… but I have been so good for so long, I decided that it’s okay for today. If I replaced the pork skin with regular pork meat, total calories would have dropped by about 90 calories, to 1,035. Also, I should have just passed on the egg rolls or taken half of one. That way, I would have been well under the 1,000 calorie limit.

Now, in full disclosure, I ended my diet last week, and I’m now in the early stages of my lean muscle mass gaining phase, which I will do for 2~3 months going forward. As such, I intentionally went back to eat a plate like the one above 2.5 more times yesterday, LOL! However, I purposely got small portions and went back to get more to continue the habit of portioning… it’s just a good habit that I will continue to practice. But you get the point that I would have stopped eating at that one plate and stayed pretty close to my allotted caloric budget for the meal, had I still been trying to lose weight, just like I have done for the last few months of my diet.

Enjoy your parties, but remember to apply portion control, and try not to exceed 40% of your daily caloric budget from one meal… if it happens, just make sure to adjust for it during the rest of the day. Good luck, and enjoy your food wisely!

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Author: Paul Kim

I'm a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about fitness! Come join my blog, as I deal with topics that are most pertinent to fitness for working professionals and homemakers. Follow me on Twitter @paulkimpk

6 thoughts on “Applying Portion Control: Grubbing Down without Going Down in Flames

  1. I know exactly what your saying. Find it really difficult everytime the partner wants to order an Indian.

    • Yes, curries can be quite high in calories… but they taste so good (both Indian and Thai), so that’s a struggle for me as well. Again, you can enjoy, but PORTION CONTROL is key!

  2. Damn, that pork looks good!

  3. The food at the party looks so delicious. I like the idea of 40% of your daily meal. It will help me to control myself. Thanks hyoung. Good luck with your training and your blog.

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