Portion Control: How it Works

May 30, 2018
plate with apples salad and salmon on a white plate

We can often get so caught up trying to decide whether or not what we’re eating is healthy that we completely forget about one piece that is vital to managing a balanced weight: portion control.

Time Magazine recently reported that one of the common themes across the board for people living healthfully into old age is that it didn’t seem to matter what they ate, but how much they ate.

With that said, science does back up that a well-rounded diet that includes a wide array of nutrients is essential for optimal health. However, the amount of food we eat also plays an integral role. Finding the correct portion sizes can be tricky, as they will vary from person to person. A weightlifting woman that uses her bike as a main form of transportation will require a different amount of calories than a less active man that commutes by car.

We’ve found some tried and true ways that when applied will help you to get those portions back under control.

Tips and Tricks for Controlling Portion Sizes

Drink a large glass of water.
Hunger can often be confused for dehydration. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and when it gets close to mealtimes drink down a large glass.

Fill up on veggies (use the half-plate rule).
Vegetables are the best. They are full of nutrients that fuel your body’s multiple systems, and they help you to feel more full. At each meal make sure half of your plate is made up of vegetables.

Use a smaller plate.
You’ll be more satisfied with less food when your plate looks full. Studies have shown that people drinking out of smaller glasses and eating off of smaller plates end up happier and more satisfied than those that try to stop eating a smaller portion off of a larger plate.

Make carbs an accent, not a base.
Instead of adding a heaping amount of pasta or rice to your plate in the beginning, start with vegetables and protein. Add a small scoop of the carbs on the side.

Slow down.
Be deliberate about chewing each bite of your food, and really take the time to enjoy all of the flavors. Set down your fork between each bite and take notice of when you begin to feel full.

Put food away immediately.
If you’ve cooked a large meal, put any leftovers into containers right away after the food has been plated. This will help to avoid any temptation of going back for second helpings.

Don’t skip meals.
Doing so will cause you to be more likely to overeat at the next meal. If you aren’t hungry enough for a full meal, drink a big glass of water and have a healthy snack like nuts or fruit rather than skipping the meal entirely.

Place snacks in a separate bowl.
Never eat straight from the bag or box. Studies have shown that people eat significantly less when they portion out a serving of snacks into a separate bowl.

Limit distractions.
There is a tendency to eat more when we aren’t being aware of how much we’re eating. Turn off the TV and put down the smartphone during meal time.

Split meals out with a friend.
Restaurant portions can be anywhere from 2-4 times larger than one actual appropriate serving size. Order one dish to split with a friend, and just ask for an extra plate. It will help to save your money and your waistline!

Always order a “small”.
If there’s a half option order that instead of the full dish. Getting ice cream? Order a kid’s cone instead. You should always enjoy going out to eat, but often the smaller portion size is plenty.

Just past the halfway point, stop eating.
Set down your fork for a few minutes, make a phone call, or read an article in a magazine. When returning to your food after a small break you may be surprised to notice that you’re satisfied and no longer hungry.

Moderating the amount of food you eat is just as important as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s creating the right combination of balanced habits that will put you on the path to a long and healthy life!

[Credit: Kelly, Diana. “14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry” Health.]
[Credit: “Just Enough for You: About Food Portions.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.]

Tags: health tips, weight loss, diet, portion control