How to Measure and Manage Portion Sizes

| 1 min read

Chuck Gaidica, Michelle Dunaway, Grace Derocha



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, as well as Michelle Dunaway, anchor at 9 and 10 News and host of The Four. Together, they discuss the importance of portion control and how it applies to your diet.
“I try to make good choices on what I’m eating… There are certain things that you can eat more of, it’s a bigger portion size, like a serving size of vegetables. So, I eat a big salad every day with some lean protein and just vinegar and oil. I’ll try to eat as many whole foods as I can.” – Michelle Dunaway
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • How portions sizes have changed over the years
  • The difference between portion and serving size
  • How life experiences inform eating habits
  • Tips on how to properly measure food
  • How to eat healthy during the holidays
  • The importance of intuitive eating

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 42. Coming up, we discuss healthy portion sizes.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we’re going to sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and have some guests as well, to deep dive into topics that cover nutrition, fitness, and a whole lot more. And ’tis the season. We’re all thinking about it, how do we make sure we’re not eating too much and are we working off the calories, right? I mean it just is. On this episode we’re talking about portion control, the do’s and dont’s. We’re going to give you some great takeaways and tips on how to measure food, manage your portion sizes.
Chuck Gaidica: Joining us today, registered dietitian, certified health coach, Grace Derocha It’s good to have you back.
Grace Derocha: Thank you so much for having me.
Chuck Gaidica: Super mom, and I mean you got to be so busy this time of the year, right?
Grace Derocha: What is happening, yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right. And this is critical, we got one of your best friends-
Grace Derocha: My besties.
Chuck Gaidica: To come down from Cadillac, Michelle Dunaway is here, anchor at a Channel 9&10, good to see you.
Michelle Dunaway: Well it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Chuck Gaidica: And you are also a host. What is the name of your show?
Michelle Dunaway: The Four.
Chuck Gaidica: The Four?
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah, it’s out at 4:00 p.m.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s easy to remember.
Michelle Dunaway: We got real creative with that one.
Chuck Gaidica: I was just up your way. I’m going to come visit your station.
Michelle Dunaway: You are more than welcome. Please come visit. Our station is beautiful.
Grace Derocha: Their station is beautiful. It’s the museum, the heritage house, it looks like a museum.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve seen it from driving past, but I’ve never had the chance to go but now I know somebody-
Michelle Dunaway: Well, you know me, yep.
Chuck Gaidica: I can get buzzed in now or will they call security?
Michelle Dunaway: Well just let me know ahead of time, otherwise you’re not going to get in. It’s like Fort Knox.
Chuck Gaidica: You deal with a lot of health and wellness issues, right? So this’ll be good. And you’re always thinking about, as everybody in TV does, about what are we going to eat and how does it work? And this time of the year. I mean let’s face it, we’re just in the shadow of Thanksgiving, but it is the season, right now, it’s the grazing season, now through January one and that’s when we all start on diets again. We’ll all recalibrate.
Chuck Gaidica: But let’s talk about what seems so common sense, portion control. And there’s psychology involved here. It isn’t just tricks of like, well use a half cup measuring cup, but this is really an important idea. So let’s dive into this. Super-size meals are big. Biggie Cokes are the same size as the small Cokes. I mean we’re just inundated with reasons to go bigger, what do we do?
Grace Derocha: And people think there’s a value to that. Like, I can get the extra large super gulp for a dollar, but the small one is also a dollar. So why wouldn’t I get the super extra large, big gulp concoction?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah. But if it’s a dollar and it’s a diet, am I not still in okay territory?
Grace Derocha: We talked about this during processed foods Chuck.
Chuck Gaidica: I know, I know, okay.
Michelle Dunaway: That’s a whole other podcast.
Chuck Gaidica: When it comes to portion control, that is the most common sense thing in the world and I think personally, I’m speaking for everybody who’s listening, I’m just going to take that on, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, take it, yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: It is the most common sense thing, but we blow it all the time and we know we blow it.
Michelle Dunaway: Well, I think everybody has a problem with it. I don’t think there’s anyone who is good all the time at making sure that they’re only eating until they’re just feeling a little bit full.
Grace Derocha: And I know we’ve talked about, I’ve talked about this with both of you, eating is more than just fueling your body. It’s emotional, it’s happy, it’s sad, it’s boredom, it’s habit. There’s so many things that tie into why we eat and how much we eat. And what’s interesting or what kind of annoys me as the dietitian lady, so there’s serving sizes on the label, so that’s technically what the FDA has approved as a serving size, but a serving size and a portion size are very different. I can tell you this is the recommended serving and it’s not necessarily written by a dietitian and everyone has different health goals, based on your age, height, health goals, gender, how much you should be having. So that serving size isn’t the end all, be all and most people don’t follow it anyway. So then taking center stage is the portion size.
Chuck Gaidica: Well I wasn’t born yesterday. Well I kind of was, but I’ve got these new chips that I like, these new tortilla chips and because they have flax seeds, I think, “Oh, this is way better.” So I look at the side of the bag and it’s not going to be crazy, I’m not blowing my whole day because I use a little nachos and whatever. So I look, it says 15 chips is serving size. And I’m thinking, this isn’t portion size, they just want to get the calorie count. They’re doing math. Who can eat 15?
Grace Derocha: There’s some definite math happening there.
Michelle Dunaway: There’s a ploy there. Who eats just 15 chips?
Grace Derocha: Right. I’m watching the game and there’s just no way.
Michelle Dunaway: Exactly. It’s hand in the bag.
Grace Derocha: Hopefully you don’t put your hand in the bag.
Michelle Dunaway: Right, that’s on our list of things to talk about.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, but it’s my bag. I mean it’s just me and Susan, and the two dogs now. So they kiss me on the lips, I can put my hand in the bag. It’s all right. That’s the last of my worries, that I’m going to chips out of there. Okay. So if we talk about this idea of portion size then, how do we calibrate that on the go with all these different kinds of foods that we’re up against?
Grace Derocha: There’s so many ways. So I would say, the first thing that I would tell people is, when you’re at home, to get an idea of what the portion is, measure a little bit, when you’re at home and you have the time, so you know what it looks like on your plates, in your bowls, in your cups. Just to have that in your back pocket. You know this is what, this is going to be sad, a third of a cup of pasta or rice cooked is read by your body as one serving. That’s not the portion size you have because the average restaurant serves three to four cups. And when you’re at home you usually have about two cups of pasta or rice.
Michelle Dunaway: And it’s a third of a cup is a serving.
Grace Derocha: So two cups is six servings.
Chuck Gaidica: And over time portion sizes have grown, as as to be fair, human beings maybe have on average, but I don’t mean just gotten bulkier, but I mean portion sizes over time have just gotten larger.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So research shows that adults today consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did in 1985.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow, that’s crazy.
Michelle Dunaway: That’s a lot.
Grace Derocha: Or think about your plates. I think I’ve talked about this before. I had friends who bought an old house and when they got their dishes, they wouldn’t fit in the kitchen cupboards because they were too big plates.
Chuck Gaidica: They were bigger, yeah. Well as an anecdote to that. So a few years ago we had the 70s theme thing we’re invited to. So I go to a vintage clothing store Downriver Detroit, a buddy of mine owns it. So I walk in, “So what do you need?” I said, “I need a 70s vintage tuxy thing with velvet collars.” And he said, “So what?’ I said, “Like a 40 regular.” 40 regular from vintage, going back 60s and 70s and then before that, I don’t care what the number was sewn into the jacket, people were smaller. I mean period. Right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, that’s true.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So I think the whole thing is growing, all of us, over time.
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah, no, that is it. I mean, even more recently than the 70s, I think sizes are changing. I mean, you go to any store and they want to make you feel better. “Hey, you’re getting a six.” And really in Europe it would be a 10 or a 12.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting.
Grace Derocha: Well, yeah, I feel like there’s a lack of consistency. But I feel at the end of the day, no matter what your dress or clothing size is, if you’re doing your best to be your healthiest, whatever your health goals might be, becomes an important part of that process.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you think this is, when it comes to clothing, I think it is different because I don’t really think of, if somebody is tricking me and telling me the waist size in my pants is a little small, I’m like, “Hey, way to go. What a day.” Is this different for women? Are you thinking about this in a different context than everybody else?
Grace Derocha: I used to, I don’t anymore.
Michelle Dunaway: You want to buy what fits you and looks good. But yeah, it feels better when you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s the four, instead of a 10.” But you can’t let that bother you. And I think mindful eating is also something that we need to talk about because I think that it’s great to talk about a half cup here and a third of a cup there, but being able to eyeball it and really know when you need to stop eating.
Chuck Gaidica: Well that’s part of the psychology of eating, that we can all either turn on the 24/7 news cycle and see craziness coming out of DC or something and you just stand there with the chips or the ice cream and you’re just like, “Oh my gosh. I mean are they’re all crazy.” Or you can portion control. Do you have tricks to that? I mean, when you talk about the mindfulness of being connected to your plate, what do you do, Michelle?
Michelle Dunaway: Well, I try to make good choices on what I’m eating, number one. There are certain things that you can eat more of, it’s a bigger portion size, serving size of vegetables. So I eat a big salad every day with some lean protein and just vinegar and oil. I’ll try to eat as many whole foods as I can. The chips are bad. I try to not keep chips in my house, is what I try to do, because I mean don’t put some Fiesta chips in front of me because I will eat the entire bag and that’s no joke. I just try to, and having a child, you want to instill this in them as well because it’s so hard when you have that big plate. And I was told when I was a kid, be a member of the clean plate club. Don’t do that. It’s like, oh my gosh, that ruined me. And I had some big weight problems as a child, so don’t feel like you have to be a part of the clean plate club.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I can tell you, I’ve never been able to break that habit and it is instilled in me from birth on. I clean the plate, I’ll lick the plate. I mean, it looks so good, you don’t even need to put it in the dishwasher. I’m just saying.
Grace Derocha: My husband, he takes bread and like, he really does. And I mean I’m Filipino, my parents would say to me, “There are children starving in the Philippines.” Talk about some eating guilt. My sister one time took her food and had a box, my mom was not happy about this, took a roll of stamps and put it around the box. We were young. And she kept dumping her food in it and had it and she was saving it to send to the Philippines.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh my.
Michelle Dunaway: That’s pretty sweet.
Grace Derocha: Well it was pretty gross. Also wasted a hundred stamps. My mom and dad were like, “First of all, what is that smell? Second of all, where all the stamps?” But I mean that was a part like clean your plate club, I think very much was a thing. I think parents are trying to not do that a little bit now.
Michelle Dunaway: I hope I don’t, but I hope that parents aren’t. I mean that does, it sticks with you, it gets in your head. And that guilt like, “Oh I need to eat all this food because all this food’s in front of me.” But then it’s like, “Oh I just ate all this food because all … it’s like you got guilt on both ends.
Chuck Gaidica: And for young boys or girls, it really is academic, I think, in any time period in the world, I mean that can lead to eating disorders as well. So that guilt is, “Well I’ll clean my plate.” But then the other side is, then you’re doing something else to compensate later on and it turns into a problem for you.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, it’s definitely, there is two ends of that spectrum of overeating, food addiction and then eating disorders, body image issues. It’s hard. And it’s funny because now I’m going to ask Chuck, with your kids where you like, “Clean your plate.”
Chuck Gaidica: No, I don’t think we ever really did that. And I think, no, no, no. I’ll tell you why. Because my wife is just way smarter than me. She had a problem growing up and we have three girls and two boys. So out of that she would say, because of this issue, “We will never really sit down and tell our kids you have to clean your plate because it can turn into a problem.” So that was wisdom because we started having kids in our early 20s.
Grace Derocha: Life experience and wisdom, for sure. And I’m guilty, Kahlea is very petite so I do want her to finish all her food. And Tommy is bigger than Kahlea. I mean, he’s four, but he will always clean his plate because I mean he weighs more, he’s almost as tall as her. He’s four, she’s seven. And she’s always been petite. She’s my one who was at risk for failure to thrive because she wasn’t eating enough. That makes me sad saying that out loud as a dietician. So that was always stressful for me. And even today she’s a slow eater. She’s my one who’s like, “I want carrots and cucumbers.” They’re both healthy eaters, but I’m always like, “Kahlea, make sure you finish. I mean just eat as much as you can.”
Chuck Gaidica: And to your point, both of you, about this idea of being connected, the mindfulness, the psychology of food portions. That being said, there still is a science to portion control. I guess they’re almost kind of hacks, but I mean I know you can use a measuring cup, so give us that. But there are ways to kind of look at it and eyeball it and know what you’re doing.
Grace Derocha: There’s measuring cups and food scales at home, but then obviously there’s handy tips. So if you’re at a restaurant or you can visualize different things, like a deck of cards, is three to four ounces of meat or the palm of your hand. I realize everyone’s hand size is a little bit different, so if you kind of think deck of cards or palm of hand, three to four ounces.
Chuck Gaidica: But even tilapia salmon doesn’t come as small as a deck of cards usually. I mean really who’s getting a deck of cards of turkey for the holidays?
Grace Derocha: No one’s raising their hand. You guys can’t see us.
Chuck Gaidica: Well they can actually.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely. But here’s the thing, on Thanksgiving or on Christmas or whatever holiday you might be celebrating, if you want to have a little bit more turkey, maybe you do, but then maybe you don’t do extra mashed potatoes and stuffing, you know what I mean. Find your ways to balance things out. If there’s something that you like more, maybe have that big salad first. I always make a really yummy, tooting my own horn, really yummy salad that has either butternut squash or sweet potatoes in it and pomegranate.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, that sounds good.
Grace Derocha: So good. But yeah, colorful and yummy and very fall wintery harvest time.
Chuck Gaidica: So protein, deck of cards, palm of your hand size. So that’s about three to four ounces.
Grace Derocha: Yep.
Chuck Gaidica: And then, what else?
Grace Derocha: So a small cupped hand, of nuts. So nuts is something that gets over eaten very easily.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, this time of the year you go to a party and it’s just like grazing.
Grace Derocha: Yes, absolutely. So this is about a serving, it’s a quarter to a third of a cup. A fist is about a cup. So if you’re talking salad, if you’re talking mashed potatoes, if you’re talking stuffing and I usually say a woman’s fist.
Chuck Gaidica: No, salad in a fist.
Grace Derocha: No, no, no. I’m talking more your mashed potatoes.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. Okay.
Grace Derocha: Yes. And that’s already two servings. This is two servings (showing hand).
Chuck Gaidica: Come on.
Grace Derocha: Half a cup is a serving. With fruits and veggies, it’s different. We give people more leeway there.
Chuck Gaidica: But to Michelle’s point about the veggies, I mean you could almost go unlimited because you’re talking such a high water content, locale.
Grace Derocha: The thing I would be here, like the dressing or the add ons, because I like to put cheese on my salad.
Michelle Dunaway: When you put bacon on it. Blue cheese. I add some goodies on there. But yeah, that’s where you have to do the portion control.
Grace Derocha: Oh this one, thumb, that’s about a tablespoon. So if you’re talking peanut butter, just so you have an idea, it doesn’t mean you only have to have one tablespoon or hummus, doesn’t only mean one tablespoon, but it means like, because I could eat a whole container of hummus.
Michelle Dunaway: And peanut butter, I mean that doesn’t seem like very much.
Grace Derocha: No.
Chuck Gaidica: No it doesn’t.
Grace Derocha: You know what’s funny, is you’d be surprised, if you’re making a peanut butter and jelly, only because I obviously have measured multiple times, you probably only put a tablespoon, even though the serving size is two, you probably only do one.
Chuck Gaidica: I have apple and peanut butter a lot.
Grace Derocha: Me too, that’s my favorite snack.
Michelle Dunaway: I eat that and I use more.
Chuck Gaidica: I know it. I know it. I’m only tracking, on my lose it app, I’m only tracking two tablespoons, but when I pull that out I’ll even look at it and go-
Michelle Dunaway: That looks like two tablespoons.
Grace Derocha: Well and also two tablespoons for a whole apple, is not enough.
Michelle Dunaway: No, that’s the problem.
Grace Derocha: We actually always talk about this.
Michelle Dunaway: I love that.
Grace Derocha: You know what’s really good? You guys should try this. I put cinnamon in my peanut butter and mix it in. My kids love that because it feels, I don’t know why, it feels like dessert.
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting. But see, here’s the thing with portion control, I know when our episodes hitting and right after Thanksgiving-
Grace Derocha: I know, don’t be mad at us.
Chuck Gaidica: So this is really, if you can get this nailed down in your daily walk of life, and you add some exercise, it’ll all kind of work out. Like if you go run the Turkey Trot the day before Thanksgiving, if you did, and now then you have a pretty big meal. Well, okay, it’s all going to work out. But it’s for the rest of us mere mortals who are trying every day to not blow through these portions.
Grace Derocha: And that’s the thing about this whole conversation, you can’t, I’ve had people that were smokers or alcoholics or drug users that have said to me, “It was easier for me to stop that, than to figure out this food life.” Because you have to always eat and drink. You have to live. So that’s not going away. So hopefully like you said, if we can take some of these things into consideration when the new year comes, you aren’t telling me about some new crazy fad diet you’re starting. I’m not talking about you two, I’m talking about the people.
Michelle Dunaway: No, I know, but it’s hard, we’re surrounded by this every day, every crazy fad diet. But it is, you just have to go and you go into situations trying to be prepared. I think that’s another thing that you’re really good at teaching is, know before you go, kind of, if you’re going to go to a party, drink a lot of water before you go. Maybe have a little bit of a snack but then don’t go hog wild at the buffet table.
Grace Derocha: If you go into a party of your girlfriend who always has some healthier options available, but then maybe if you’re going to someone’s house, you don’t really know, maybe you offer to bring the salad or the veggie tray with the hummus. You know what I mean, set yourself up for it.
Michelle Dunaway: I always bring the veggie tray.
Chuck Gaidica: It is pretty easy. When you go to someone’s house today, the guy that never grew up after college and all he’s got is pizza and beer, if you go to a party, most of the time, this time of the year, there is that end of the table with the place you should hover, the veggie tray and the celery.
Grace Derocha: And then the Christmas cookies.
Chuck Gaidica: So just hover on that side and you’ll be good. So we’ve got some do’s and don’ts, right?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: And we’ve talked about a couple of them already. Let’s go into some of these. What should we do about using smaller plates?
Grace Derocha: Please do. There’s actually, it’s an old study, I feel like I’ve been talking about this study for a long time, where they had a bunch of people eating pasta and what they did is they kept giving them more pasta on a bigger plate. And every time they did, most people ate two thirds to three quarters, no matter how big the plate was or how much was on there. They went up to 16 ounces and people were eating upwards of 12 ounces. I mean, so much, as a five foot person, that’s a lot of pasta. But it’s very interesting, my mom always says this too, your eyes are bigger than your stomach, especially if you’re hungry.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you do that? Do you look for a smaller plate on purpose?
Michelle Dunaway: I do and when I go out to eat, I’ll typically get a side salad and an appetizer instead of ordering an entree. If I can find an appetizer that’s good, I love mussels and I’ll do mussels all the time with a salad or something like that. And that’s my go to sort of. And sushi night I’ll get just the poke instead of the sushi rolls, things like that. So that’s what I try to do. I sometimes eat off the big plates, but my eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach. You just start with just a little bit and go from there.
Grace Derocha: Or I’m a leftover goddess so I want leftovers so I purposely will get the entree but then you can either box half right away. I’m pretty good at just stopping. Actually one of our colleagues, Jenny, she always laughs at me because she’s always like, “I have never met someone at a restaurant, who eats as slow as you do. And then you’re like, can you just box that.” And it’s just become habitual at this point because it takes 20 minutes, this is scientific fact, 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full. There’s literally three chemicals when you start digesting foods, start in the mouth, that will signal the brain to be like, “You’re full. Please stop. You’re full. Please stop.” That’s what it sounds like.
Chuck Gaidica: What’s one of those? Is it like ghrelin or graylin?
Grace Derocha: Ghrelin is your hunger hormone.
Chuck Gaidica: See I’m not as dumb as I look.
Grace Derocha: I always laugh because I feel like that sounds like some crazy ogre that’s like, “Eat food.”
Chuck Gaidica: Well it does. It sounds like your stomach is gurgling. That’s how I always remember that there’s some goofy chemical in your body.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. That’s one of the major hunger hormones that we have. And that’s the hormone or chemical that will say, “You’re full or please eat more. You need some energy.”
Chuck Gaidica: But you both have said something that I don’t know that I have practiced all the time, which really are hacks. One was order a salad and not an entree but go for an appetizer. So my wife has been doing that forever. It takes me years to catch up anyway with the things she does that are so smart. And then you’re also talking about this idea of portion control, by default, you’re kind of saving half to be a leftover anyway, so you’ve already cut your portion. I mean both are things that you may do through intuition, but they work.
Grace Derocha: And eat slowly.
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah, I feel like that’s key.
Grace Derocha: I mean if you think, because at a restaurant I slow down because I’m being social, but I’m a fast eater and if you think about that, if it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full and you’re a fast eater, you’re going to eat more.
Chuck Gaidica: Now you talked about drinking water. Do you do that? Do you? You’re carrying the bottle all the time.
Michelle Dunaway: I have this with me all the time.
Grace Derocha: I’m just glad she didn’t bring her U of M one.
Chuck Gaidica: But you’re doing that before meals as well, not just to hydrate-
Michelle Dunaway: I just drink water all day. I definitely, and I know that is also a hunger cue, that if you’re dehydrated it’s going to feel like you’re hungry. And so I try to just make sure that I am always hydrated.
Grace Derocha: Say that one more time for the people in the back, the hunger cue.
Michelle Dunaway: You will feel like you’re hungry, but it sometimes is a sign that you’re dehydrated. So just make sure that you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate so that your body isn’t fooling you into eating when you don’t need to eat. So that’s important to me and I’m always thirsty, so I just …
Grace Derocha: Well it’s good for, I mean, it’s good for your organs, good for your body, good for your skin, good for your hair, good for your nails.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I mean, look at me. My nails are good, my hair, you can’t see the Velcro, it’s good. All right, so reading labels. This is so funny, grandson says to my daughter Tiffany the other day, “Mom, come on, speed it up.” She’s telling us this, “Speed it up.” She’s at the store. She’s reading labels. “Come on, mom. Let’s go. Wrap it up.” Because Tiffany has gotten involved and she wants to read the labels, sodium content. I mean, everything, we should read the label.
Grace Derocha: Know better. Do better. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Say that again.
Grace Derocha: Know better. Do better.
Chuck Gaidica: I like that. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So yeah, I want people to be knowledgeable. 15 chips, it’s a sad situation, but it’s very eyeopening when you think about, if I eat, the serving size says 15 chips is 150 whatever, 150 calories, this much fat, this much salt. And it may be you’re not going to eat only 15 at that time. Maybe you’re going to have 30 whatever it is. But at least be in the know because when we’re proactive about tackling our health goals and being healthier, we’re going to do better. You will.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you read labels?
Michelle Dunaway: I do.
Chuck Gaidica: When you shop or everywhere or what, how do you do it?
Michelle Dunaway: Sometimes when I shop, I’ve been doing a lot of Shipt lately, so they were reading every label, but I really do try to really buy more whole foods. But cereal, it gets you every time. And that’s where my daughter, she calls herself a Carbertarian.
Chuck Gaidica: How old is she?
Michelle Dunaway: She’s 11, so yes, she loves her carbs. And so that stuff I try to read labels with her and try to be like, “Let’s not fill the bowl with this much cereal.” Things like that. And I use the soup example all the time, that you’re not going to eat half a can of soup, you’re going to eat the whole can and there are two servings.
Chuck Gaidica: Well the same with turkey chili or something. I mean look at the label. We’ve talked about how much sodium is locked up in there. You think, “Oh low fat, okay, way to go.” And then you really read all the rest of the ingredients and you’re going to take out probably that can, you’re not going to eat half a can. The cereal is a good thing and here’s what I can admit about portion control. Once I’ve trained myself to do it, it takes a minute, even with Kashi, which I’ll have in the morning, the original, it’s a cup and a quarter I think is the serving size. I’m still measuring and Kashi would be the kind of stuff based on what it is and how much protein and fiber, you could just take handfuls and you’d still be okay in the day. And I’m still measuring it out because I got in the habit of doing it.
Grace Derocha: And I’m sure though, you probably know now what it looks like in your bowl.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I do. But I’m telling you, I still go for it and I’m still kind of going, “Oh, that’s half of the half.” It’s in my brain already.
Grace Derocha: Like such a proud dietitian.
Michelle Dunaway: That’s great though. That’s great you do that.
Chuck Gaidica: No, I’m like Pavlov’s dog. You train me enough and yeah.
Grace Derocha: I think I’ve told you this story before, Chuck, but I had a patient before, she happened to be a person with diabetes, but she was wondering why her blood sugar was always high in the morning. And she thought that she was only having a cup of cereal. I had her bring it in and I had her bring her bowl in and she would dump it and we measured, it was three cups. She’s like, “No wonder.” Her bowl was weird, it was a little bit deeper so I could see where she thought that, to a certain degree, if you’re not measuring. But that’s why being a little bit proactive about that measurement or food scale when you are at home, just to keep you in check.
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Another do or don’t, food diary or an app to track your food, are you doing that?
Michelle Dunaway: I’ve dabbled in it, but it is just …
Chuck Gaidica: Sounds like art. I’ve dabbled in painting.
Michelle Dunaway: But it’s hard for me to stay dedicated to doing that. It’s just time.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So you kind of know your system over time and so it’s okay that you’re not tracking. I try
Michelle Dunaway: And it’s great and I know people who have done it and who’ve lost a ton of weight doing that and it’s super successful for people. But I’ll do it for a day and a half and I’ll just, “Oh shoot, I forgot what I ate earlier.” And then I’m like, “Oh, how much?” It just …
Chuck Gaidica: My app does send me, when I haven’t logged in. It isn’t even like, “Honey I miss you.”
Grace Derocha: “Where are you at Chuck?”
Chuck Gaidica: Mine’s a little stronger saying, “Hey moron.” But I like it.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Here’s the thing, I tell people to do it, especially in the beginning for accountability and then later on down the road, I say, pick three days that you’re going to do it, just to check in. I’m kind of like Michelle, I will dabble and I’ll randomly go back to it, I probably do one day a week now, but at the same, I’m a dietitian so obviously I’m very familiar. I think once you get more in tune with your process, what certain portions work well for you, what your goals are, you get better at it without having to, but I do think it’s a great accountability partner.
Chuck Gaidica: I think that’s probably has been the best part for me. Not so much, that and the initial discovery of what’s locked up in the foods. Because then once you get to know that, if you become a nerd about it, a little bit of a nerd about it, you can say, “I know that peanut butter is 190 calories for two tablespoons.” See, I know that.
Grace Derocha: I remember you telling me before that your app said, “Chuck, the days that you have bananas, you have a better eating-”
Chuck Gaidica: Exactly.
Grace Derocha: It’s very cool to, I remember you were like, “Oh maybe I should have bananas.”
Chuck Gaidica: Well, and you know what that is, so let me just tell you. So Kashi, I’m sorry, I don’t know if I should tell you, but I’m telling you. So Kashi, blueberries and a banana in the morning with almond milk. So I look at that and I think, “That’s a giant bowl of stuff.” And then when the app starts telling me, “When you eat bananas, you’re doing a pretty good job the rest of your day.” And I’m kind of looking over my shoulder like, “How did you know?” Kind of freak me out. All right, more do’s and don’ts. What should we do about storing junk food away from the line of sight and the immediate place we go when we’re feeling emotionally up or down?
Grace Derocha: I have a few things here. So we don’t really keep, well our kids have ice cream, but my husband loves ice cream, so he doesn’t really like to have ice cream in the house because he’ll have all the ice cream. So it’s either out of sight, out of mind. So if you have certain trigger foods that are like, “I will eat the whole carton.” Sorry babe, I’m calling you out.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s all right. I relate. Especially as it gets melted around the edges. You leave it out and just eat out of the carton. I’m just saying, it’s just the best.
Grace Derocha: Tom, I love you. So if you have certain trigger foods that are your foods, try not to keep as much. And I know it’s trickier with kids, I mean, you guys know, when there’s kids in the house, you can’t like, “Kahlea and Tommy, you can never have ice cream.” That’s not fair. But if you can figure out ways to maybe buy the flavor that they like and the one that you don’t. So I have that, out of sight, out of mind situation, but then also sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder and then you’re like, “I want all the” … Then you’re going to buy the ice cream, then your going to eat the whole tub because you’re like, “My dietitian wife doesn’t allow me.”
Chuck Gaidica: Well you’ve used these words before, the moderation. I mean moderation. We have a drawer now for the grandkids. I mean we’ve transitioned from our kid drawer, which we grow up and there are five of them and they’re coming and going, to now we have grandkids, so I know if I want something that’s got little chocolate chips in it, I know what drawer it’s in. I mean, I own the house, I know which drawer it’s in and you can’t really hide much from me.
Grace Derocha: But it’s also not in the pantry right in front of you.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, that’s true. That is true.
Grace Derocha: So that helps. Do you do anything?
Michelle Dunaway: I try not to buy it, but like Fiesta chips, that is my weakness.
Grace Derocha: I’m going to bring you Fiesta chips.waitress thing.
Michelle Dunaway: Please don’t. They’re made in Luddington though, I love them. They are the best. But I don’t really like chips but I will not keep ice cream in the house. We’ve gone to Mochi’s because those portion control-
Chuck Gaidica: What is that?
Michelle Dunaway: Built in portion control, they’re little-
Grace Derocha: It’s Asian ice cream.
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah, it’s …
Chuck Gaidica: Is it?
Michelle Dunaway: I’ll describe them perfectly, ice cream with a puffy exterior.
Grace Derocha: So it’s like a steamed rice flour cake around a little thing of ice cream. It is Asian. It’s an Asian thing.
Michelle Dunaway: 90 calories for one and they are amazing.
Chuck Gaidica: They’re small enough to just pop one or you have to break it? Would you use a utensil or you’d literally just take it.
Michelle Dunaway: They’re really soft and you let them sit out for a minute or so and to let it soften.
Grace Derocha: Because it’s rice flour that’s steamed. That’s what is the covering.
Michelle Dunaway: And Whole Foods and stuff, you can buy them. They have actually a mochi container that you pick all your different things, and then the freezer section, that’s just all like cookies and cream or vanilla. Built in portion control and that is my hack because if you want something sweet, it’s not horrible for you and you eat one and you feel like it satisfies.
Grace Derocha: See again, I usually buy the green tea or the mango flavored or there’s red bean.
Chuck Gaidica: This is a new thing to me. I mean I’ve had skinny cow and stuff that’s 90 calories ish, for portions. But this sounds great.
Michelle Dunaway: That’s a good option too.
Grace Derocha: I do like mochi a lot.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. It’s a new thing, so this is a good idea. I want to remind everybody before we’re done. Yes, that’d be nice.
Grace Derocha: I’m going to bring you some.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, good. We’ve already talked about measuring cups. Are you weighing food or are you really just doing the at a glance, it looks like a palm size version of whatever?
Grace Derocha: I sometimes do. I don’t always.
Michelle Dunaway: My battery is dead on my scale, so not right now.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. Well, it’s still blinking, so I’m going for more. This is a really good one because we live in the world of giant discount warehouse stores where, to be fair, I’ve got the giant box of oatmeal and then I kept the little drum and I just keep refilling it. That’s the good side of me. And then the other, the little bad guy on my shoulders going, “Get the six cans of whipped cream that are all bound together in a 55 gallon drum.” Do you buy the big stuff and repackage it and repurpose it down to baggy size or something?
Michelle Dunaway: I don’t.
Chuck Gaidica: No, you just buy, it’s like just in time delivery, you just get what you need.
Michelle Dunaway: I don’t have a lot of storage space, number one, is my problem, so I just try to use what I have.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. I love Costco, so I do buy the big things, but I’m not, stick my hand in the bag or box in front of the TV person. I definitely, I bowl it up. I don’t count, but even for my kids too, first of all it’s less messy, but also I feel like Tommy would eat the whole bag, family size bag of chips.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s hard not to when you like Fiesta chips or whatever. I mean, whatever your thing is, if you have a big bag, it’s tough. It’s tough. So listen to your body. I mean, let’s listen to what it’s trying to tell us.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And again, listen to who you are. You don’t have to deprive yourself if you know you can figure out a way to still enjoy it, in moderation. Are you out of sight, out of mind or absence makes the heart grow fonder with your food?
Chuck Gaidica: So I think let’s just reemphasize a few of these points we’ve talked about. Don’t eat straight out of the bag or box. Anything else about that that’s a trick or a hack? I mean, just put a portion in a bowl maybe, if you got chips.
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah, I think that’s a great …
Chuck Gaidica: All right. And what about if we’re distracted or getting riled up over what the news of the day is, is that the best time to grab the stuff?
Grace Derocha: So this is what I would tell people, with any kind of emotional eating is one, be honest with yourself. I am emotional right now. I’m stressed, this is a habit for me to go to, sorry babe, ice cream, whatever it might be. And be honest with yourself in that moment. So yes. Do you maybe want some and will you stick with the half the bowl? Are you actually hungry? Doing some of those breathing exercises to be in tune to that intuitive eating. Do you need to have something right now or maybe, I used to do this with patients and that and I have my own mental list, but are there a few things that you could do right now to take your mind off of that? Could you walk around the house, could you go up and down the stairs? Could you fold your laundry? You know what I mean, whatever it might be to take you to a different place so you don’t necessarily have to emotionally eat.
Michelle Dunaway: I have a problem with that, lonely, boredom, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to have” … and that’s a big crutch for me. Brushing your teeth sometimes helps because nothing tastes good after you brush your teeth really.
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting, yeah.
Grace Derocha: Chewing gum, I used to do that all the time.
Chuck Gaidica: I found that, if after dinner, if I do brush my teeth, I’m probably, to be fair, I’m less tempted to do anything from get an after dinner coffee to dessert because the sweet thing kind of goes away. That’s a great hack. That’s awesome.
Grace Derocha: And then also people will tend to go to bed earlier and then they’re probably getting more sleep if you brush your teeth early.
Chuck Gaidica: I’m sleeping right now, so you couldn’t tell.
Grace Derocha: Drink water.
Chuck Gaidica: Drink water, talked about that. That’s a good one. The idea of serving.
Michelle Dunaway: Tea, I like tea.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you?
Michelle Dunaway: Yeah. I try to drink tea every night and so that’s kind of my-
Grace Derocha: Like a habit. A good habit.
Michelle Dunaway: Well I hope.
Chuck Gaidica: So what about family style serving instead of just having it buffet style? I know there’s a hybrid to this because growing up we really made it a point to have all the kids at the table. I think it’s critically important to families life. But if we did family style it really was more the green beans to be fair, probably if there are mashed potatoes, not so much the portion of protein and stuff. But we would still have family sized bowls sometimes.
Grace Derocha: I don’t know, I love family style.
Chuck Gaidica: I do too. I think it connects you in a way, but you have to be careful how much is being passed.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I think that’s the time when you don’t pull out the 12 inch plate, you know what I mean, because that would help you then hopefully because you can’t fit anymore on the small plate.
Chuck Gaidica: And what about skipping meals because there’s a whole, and we’ll talk about this more, we’ve talked a little bit about fasting in previous episodes, but there’s a whole move toward intermittent fasting.
Grace Derocha: I’m not a fan of skipping meals.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. No, you eat three squares a day?
Michelle Dunaway: I don’t, I …
Chuck Gaidica: Come on, you can tell us, come on.
Grace Derocha: She’s looking at me like I’m going to yell at her.
Chuck Gaidica: Nobody’s going to give you a ticket.
Michelle Dunaway: I don’t eat breakfast. And that’s just been kind of a newer thing, but it’s worked for me. So I try to eat lunch and dinner within a reasonable amount of time. Clearly that doesn’t happen every day, but I’m not typically hungry in the morning. And I love coffee, so I drink a lot of coffee in the morning and then I eat lunch probably around noonish because then I start to get hangry and then I’m like, “Okay, I need to eat.” And so around noon I eat lunch and I try to eat dinner, six-ish, be done by 7:00.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well a lot of good tips. We’ve gone way beyond common sense because common sense tells you about what you think you know about portions, but some of the hacks, some of the things we’re talking about, it’s a good reminder for all of us this time of the year especially.
Grace Derocha: And I think Michelle mentioned mindfulness, intuitive eating is another, it’s kind of buzzy right now, but it’s real. The way I refer to intuitive eating is that when babies are hungry, they eat and when they’re full, they stop. And if only we could be that way too. Really tapping into, “Am I actually hungry? Am I full? Should I stop now?” Rejecting this whole diet mentality and having to look a certain way.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s a lifestyle, Grace, it’s not a diet.
Grace Derocha: That’s right, thank you. And having a good relationship with food and your body. So many things. Challenging the food police, honoring your hunger. Being like, “I am hungry right now. I need to give me myself that and I need to nourish myself.” So really thinking about those things and it’s almost a way, intuitive eating also ties into wanting to do the best for your body. You know what I mean, from exercise, to good mental health, to building that better relationship with food.
Chuck Gaidica: Good stuff. Well it’s good to have you both here.
Michelle Dunaway: It was good to be here.
Chuck Gaidica: Michelle Dunaway came down from Cadillac to be with us today. Multiple Emmy award winning, Michelle Dunaway, I should point out, it’s so nice to have you here and great to meet you.
Grace Derocha: I’m with two Emmy award winners. I don’t have any.
Chuck Gaidica: Well we can get you some.
Grace Derocha: How do I do that?
Chuck Gaidica: Oh sure.
Michelle Dunaway: We know people.
Chuck Gaidica: She’s got an extra, it’s like she’s got a lot.
Michelle Dunaway: Corey can give you some a his, he’s got lots.
Grace Derocha: Oh yes, yes.
Chuck Gaidica: And Grace Derocha back with us again this week. Always a joy to have you here. Some good stuff. And everybody, think about this idea of moderation as we head into the holidays, hydrating and just looking at maybe downsizing the plates. Just stay within the circle of all the Ivy and the Santa and Mrs Claus. Stay in that thing as you’re headed for the holidays, maybe that’ll help out. So that’s a good idea.
Chuck Gaidica: Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you want to know more, you can check us out online at, you can leave us reviews there. You can rate us on iTunes or Stitcher. You can get new episodes. We get a lot of previous episodes. We’re up to 42, so there’s a lot of good stuff, mindfulness, a lot of things locked up in those episodes. You can get them on your smartphone or tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica, have a great day.

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