How To Estimate Portion Size

Things have been nuts since school started. The last semester is ending with a flurry of group projects and the beginning of my first internship rotations. This means that my usual pattern of eating has been thrown off a bit. While I don’t normally pay attention to small fluctuations in what the scale says (I usually weigh myself every 2 or 3 days) I start to keep a close eye when it goes up 3-4 pounds. For me personally it’s easier to catch and deal with smaller changes in weight then wait until I’ve gained 15, 20 or more. I’ve dealt with regain before so this is my system of tackling the problem. When the scale starts to steadily move up it usually means one of several things.

– I’ve decreased the amount of vegetables that I normally eat.

– I’ve started to replace the vegetables with things that are fast and easy to grab and eat. This usually means snack type items such as crackers, pretzels, cereal and bread.

– I’ve started eating bigger portions of things that are good for you but higher in calories such as nuts, cheese, dried fruit, etc.

Thinking back over the last week or two I could see a pattern appearing. Some of the items that I bring with me to eat at school or on the run were slowly increasing in size. I’m currently out of the smaller snack sized plastic bags and began using the larger sandwich bags. I could kind of eyeball the small snack bags and knew how much I could put in the bag without it being an overly large portion. The sandwich bags however have far too much room for items such as trail mix, almonds, cashews, dried fruit, etc that I would bring to snack eat. I really hate measuring out my food but, after pouring some of my usual trail mix into the larger bag, I measured it and found that I was pouring myself two to three times as much when I used this size bag. To stop over measuring I will return to a method that I found handy and that doesn’t require pulling out measuring cups (though that is a great technique to control portions sizes). What I normally do is use my hand to quickly measure out items. Check out the chart below to see what I mean:


The way to use this chart is to look at the hand symbol on the left and see what measurement it can be used for on the right. For example, the third picture down on the left shows a handful. The food you are measure, nuts for example, should fit into this area of your hand. It’s a fast and easy method to measure items out and keep portions under control.

Hey….everyone’s hand size is different so doesn’t that mean that they are getting a bigger portion?

Well, yes the most likely are getting a slightly bigger portion. But the bigger/taller/larger a person is the more likely they will be eating more calories to maintain their larger frame size.

Paying attention to portion sizes is one way to keep the issue of regain under control. Food portion sizes are getting bigger all the time so it becomes important to remember that the item your eating might actually contain several portions and most likely isn’t a single serving of that item. Want to see what I mean? Check out two portion distortion quizzes available at Choose My Plate. There are links to each quiz about half way down the page. I think you’ll be quite surprised to see the increase in product sizes over the years.

Exciting News For This Semester

For the last few years I have been attending college in hopes of changing careers. Who knew that when I had gastric bypass surgery almost 9 years ago that it would affect so many other things besides what I weighed. Several years after having surgery I decided to return to school. Having worked as a nurse for many years it was time for a change. Since having surgery I began to connect nutrition to many of the medical issues that I had seen with my patients. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives before they got to the point that they needed care from a nurse. I returned to school to pursue a degree in nutrition with the hopes of becoming a registered dietitian. This would require not only a degree in nutrition but also an internship before you are able to sit for the licensing test.

If you know anyone who is a dietitian ask them about their internship. Or at least the process of obtaining one. It’s very long and the competition is incredible. It’s estimated that only about 50% of graduating students are able to get into one. The school I attend offers an internship program with a very limited number of spots. I applied in the spring and was put on hold until all the spring and summer grades were in. This past Thursday I picked up this letter at the nutrition office:


YES! I got into the program! I will be starting one of my first internships this semester and will spend time over four semesters getting in 1,200 internship hours. Who knew that WLS would one day lead to a whole new career!

Interesting Study On Gastric Bypass Surgery And Blood Sugar Crashes

crashing blood sugar

I came across this article a few days ago. When comparing three types of weight loss surgery (gastric bypass which I’m figuring means the RNY surgery, duodenal switch and the sleeve) it was noted that those who had the gastric bypass were more likely to have some type problem with blood sugar regulation after surgery. Some new conditions that were noted included:

– nesidioblastosis: hypoglycemia caused by the pancreas over secreting insulin

– noninsulinoma pancreatogenous hypoglycemia syndrome: yes another type of hypoglycemia caused by an over reacting pancreas

– hyperinsulinemia: excess levels of insulin circulating in the body for various reasons. Can be caused by prediabetes, insulin resistance and PCOS among other things.

While the number of patients followed after surgery was small, as someone who deals with reactive hypoglycemia since surgery, I find it very interesting. I hope they continue to follow more patients after surgery so additional information can be gathered and patients will have a better idea of some of the issues they may deal with after surgery.

Read the full article, Study Suggests Gastric Bypass Causes Glucose Spikes, Crashes, for more information.

Hot And Sour Chicken Soup

I love this soup!

Not only do I love the flavor combination of spicy and sour but I love the way the chicken comes out nice and tender. After WLS surgery chicken, as well as pork, is one of those food items that either goes down great or gives me that terrible stuck feeling. It all depends upon how it’s cooked. If it’s just the least bit dry then I know I may end up getting sick. Poaching the chicken in broth or water before making the dish really seems to help it stay tender enough to prevent problems.


hot and sour soup

Hot And Sour Chicken Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
You can also add cubes of tofu to this recipe if desired.
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • ½ cup sliced bamboo shoots
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger or a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 4 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 large egg beaten
  1. Place chicken breasts in sauce pan, fill with enough water to just cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer chicken breasts until no longer pink in the center. Remove the chicken from the liquid and allow to cool. Once cool shred chicken and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan combine the chicken broth, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  3. In a bowl combine the red wine vinegar and cornstarch. Add to the broth mixture and stir well.
  4. Add in the shredded chicken to the broth and turn the heat up to medium high. Slowly drizzle in the beaten egg while stirring gently. This should create long strands of cooked egg. Simmer for about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in toasted sesame oil, green onions and cilantro.

If you wish to add tofu you can add it along with the shredded chicken.

Not only does this soup taste great and is high in protein but it can easily be eaten not matte what food consistency stage you are in after surgery. For those in the puree stage simply place the soup in a blender and blend to the correct consistency.

Picture by BrokenSphere

Ham, Kale And White Bean Soup

Whenever I make a spiral ham I always save the bone. If you don’t want to use it right away it can be placed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 6 months. What can you do with a ham bone? Well, when you cook it in the crockpot it makes the best ham broth for soup. It’s super easy to do. Simply take the bone that’s left over after removing much of the meat from it and put it in your crockpot. Add a quart or more of water. Enough to cover the bone. Add in a quartered onion, a stick or two of celery and a carrot. Cook on low for at least 8 hours. Or on high for 6 hours. Once it’s done remove the bone and strain out the broth. Any meat that is on the bone can be picked off and added to the soup.

What kind of soup can you make with your ham broth? Well how about this Ham, Kale and White Bean Soup?

Ham, Kale and White Bean Soup

ham kale bean soup

Ham, Kale And White Bean Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Soup is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables that may be lurking around in your refrigerator. I made a quick search in mine and found ¼ of a head of cabbage that needed to be used up. I also found about ½ cup of string beans. See what you have on hand to add to the soup pot.
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic OR 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz frozen, chopped kale OR ½ bunch of fresh kale (remove stems and chop)
  • 8 oz frozen, sliced zucchini OR 1 fresh zucchini, diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced ( I used 2 red potatoes and left the skin on)
  • 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed OR 1½ cups cooked beans
  • 2 to 3 cups of diced ham
  • 6 cups of broth (I used ham broth from cooking the ham with some added veggie broth base)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot add the onion and garlic (if using fresh) along with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook until the onion has softened a bit.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients: kale, zucchini, potatoes, beans, ham, broth, red and black pepper. Carefully add salt to taste since the ham contains a good amount of salt in it.
  3. Add any other veggies you might have on hand. In my case I included thinly sliced cabbage and a small amount of string beans.
  4. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes have softened.
  5. Adjust pepper and salt to taste and serve.

Have you ever tried making ham broth in the crockpot? What’s your favorite recipe to use it in. Leave a comment and a link to your favorite recipe below.

« Previous PageNext Page »