Helpful tips on how to measure food portions and keep track of them, with a focus on weight loss. I’ll give you recommendations on the best kitchen scales and portion control bowls you can use at home. Reducing your food portion sizes is the quickest way to lose weight. The problem is that many Americans are don’t realize they’re eating more food than they should. This makes it crucial that you use portion control plates, bowls and cups to re-train your brain to eat only what your body needs.
WHY IS PORTION CONTROL IMPORTANT?
In basic terms, your body requires a certain amount of calories to function and survive each day. Those calories are determined by your age, current weight, and daily activity level and vary from person to person. An average woman requires approximately 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight, and 1500 calories per day to lose one pound of weight per week. An average man, on the other hand, requires approximately 2500 calories per day to maintain his weight, and 2000 to lose one pound of weight per week.
That’s where portion control comes in. If you’re eating more calories than your body needs, your body will take those extra calories and store them as fat. The more extra calories you consumer, the more fat you’ll store. So, in order to reduce those extra calories being stored as fat, we can use portion control to make sure we are eating what our body actually needs.
The reason why this is so difficult for many of us to do is we are constantly provided with larger portions than we need. This causes us to eat more without even realizing we’ve over-eaten, causing weight gain.
HOW PORTION CONTROL CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
By portioning out our food and controlling the amounts of food we put into our bodies, we can essentially assume control over how much of our food will be stored as fat. And, if we eat at a calorie deficit, which means we eat less than what our body requires each day to function, we can then make our body use stored fat for energy, which causes weight loss. The more stored fat your body burns, the more weight you lose, up to a point, which is why we want to make sure we maintain a healthy, balanced diet while we utilize portion control.
PORTION CONTROL TIPS FOR HOW TO GET STARTED
Don’t worry, this isn’t where I suggest you eat carrot sticks and celery al day to lose weight. In fact, I recommend eating portions that make you feel full and satisfied, all the while understanding the food breakdown of what you’re eating. To help you, I’ve gathered some portion control tips that helped me when I first started.
- Read all nutrition labels. This is a biggie and will definitely be a big help to understand what’s in your food. It’s so important to read the labels to understand serving sizes. This doesn’t mean we then go by what the label recommends as a serving, however. Instead, we use labels to understand how much of that food we should be eating. Not everybody needs the same serving size, so it’s important to consider your daily needs. You can read more about what to look out for on your labels in this clean eating guide.
- Measure your food. There are many different ways to understand serving sizes so we can have a better idea of what we are eating. If you’re cooking at home (which is a great way to control portion size), you can make use of a kitchen scale, measuring cups, and meal prep containers to portion control your meals. When you’re not at home, there are also several tips you can use, which I discuss later on in this post.
- Meal prep. I love to meal prep because it is such a great way to help prepare you to succeed at your healthy goals. It helps to prep and cook balanced and healthy meals and full control over food portion sizes. The more you can plan ahead and make your well-balanced meal work for you, the better of you’ll be. Here are some great meal prep ideas to get you started.
- Calculate your macros. It’s important to get a good understanding of what your body needs in order to fully take advantage of portion control when trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight. This one is a little tricky and does require some patience and learning. I’ll cover how to calculate your macros later in this post so you can get started right away.
- Fill up on veggies. Veggies and greens are always a good idea so make sure you enjoy them with every meal. They not only add valuable nutrients, but they also are filling and don’t take up a bunch of calories, which allows you to better portion out your carbs and protein.
What Is a Serving Size?
Instead of trying to memorize lists of ounces, cups, and tablespoons, simply compare the serving sizes of foods to familiar things.
For example, a single serving of:
- Vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist.
- Pasta is about the size of one scoop of ice cream.
- Meat, fish, or poultry is the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm (minus the fingers).
- Snacks such as pretzels and chips is about the size of a cupped handful.
- Apple is the size of a baseball.
- Potato is the size of a computer mouse.
- Bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
- Pancake is the size of a CD.
- Steamed rice is the size of a cupcake wrapper.
- Cheese is the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base).
The best way to determine the amount of food in a serving is to look at the Nutrition Facts label and measure it.
For example, fill a measuring cup with the proper-sized portion of vegetables, rice, etc. and then empty it onto a plate. That will help you learn what these serving sizes look like.
Watch the Portion Size
- Use smaller dishes at meals.
- Serve food in the right portion amounts, and don’t go back for seconds.
- Put away any leftovers in separate, portion-controlled amounts. Consider freezing the portions you likely won’t eat for a while.
- Never eat out of the bag or carton.
- Don’t keep platters of food on the table; you are more likely to “pick” at it or have a second serving without realizing it.
- Ask for half or smaller portions.
- Eyeball your appropriate portion, set the rest aside, and ask for a doggie bag right away.
- If you have dessert, share.
At the supermarket:
- Beware of mini-sized snacks — small crackers, cookies, and pretzels. Most people end up eating more than they realize, and the calories add up.
- Choose foods packaged in individual serving sizes.
- If you like to eat ice cream out of the carton, pick up ice cream sandwiches or other individual-size servings.
Tips to Measure and Control Portion Sizes
Obesity is a growing epidemic, as more people than ever are struggling to control their weight.
Increased portion sizes are thought to contribute to overeating and unwanted weight gain
Research indicates that many factors can influence how much you eat.
People tend to eat almost all of what they serve themselves. Therefore, controlling portion sizes can help prevent overindulging
1. Use Smaller Dinnerware
Evidence suggests that sizes of plates, spoons and glasses can unconsciously influence how much food someone eats
For example, using large plates can make food appear smaller — often leading to overeating.
In one study, people using a large bowl ate 77% more pasta than those using a medium-sized bowl
In another study, nutritional experts served themselves 31% more ice cream when given larger bowls and 14.5% more when provided with larger serving spoons
Interestingly, most people who ate more due to large dishes were completely unaware of the change in portion size
Therefore, swapping your usual plate, bowl or serving spoon for a smaller alternative can reduce the helping of food and prevent overeating.
Most people feel just as full having eaten from a smaller dish as from a large one.
using smaller dishes or glasses can lower the amount of food or drink you
consume. What’s more, people tend to feel just as satisfied.
2. Use Your Plate as a Portion Guide
If measuring or weighing food isn’t appealing, try using your plate or bowl as a portion control guide.
This can help you determine the optimal macronutrient ratio for a well-balanced meal.
A rough guide for each meal is:
- Vegetables or salad: Half a plate
- High-quality protein: Quarter
of a plate — this includes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, beans
- Complex carbs: Quarter of a plate — such
as whole grains and starchy vegetables
- High-fat foods: Half a tablespoon (7 grams)
— including cheese, oils and butter
Remember that this is a rough guide, as people have different dietary needs. For example, those who are more physically active often require more food.
As vegetables and salad are naturally low in calories but high in fiber and other nutrients, filling up on these may help you avoid overeating calorie-dense foods.
If you want extra guidance, some manufacturers sell portion-control plates.
Summary Using a
plate as a guide for portion control can help you curb total food intake. You
can divide your plate into sections based on different food groups.
3. Use Your Hands as a Serving Guide
Another way to gauge appropriate portion size without any measuring tools is by simply using your hands.
As your hands usually correspond to your body size, bigger people who require more food typically have bigger hands
A rough guide for each meal is:
- High-protein foods: A palm-sized serving for women and two
palm-sized portions for men — such as meat, fish, poultry and beans
- Vegetables and salads: A fist-sized portion for women and two
fist-sized portions for men
- High-carb foods: One cupped-hand portion for women and
two for men — such as whole grains and starchy vegetables
- High-fat foods: One thumb-sized portion for women and
two for men — such as butter, oils and nuts
hands can be a helpful guide for portion sizes. Different food groups
correspond to various shapes and parts of your hands.
4. Ask for a Half Portion When Eating Out
Restaurants are notorious for serving large portions
In fact, restaurant serving sizes are, on average, about 2.5 times larger than standard serving sizes — and up to a whopping eight times larger
If you are eating out, you can always ask for a half portion or a children’s dish.
This will save you a lot of calories and help prevent overeating.
Alternatively, you could share a meal with someone or order a starter and side instead of a main dish.
Other tips include ordering a side salad or vegetables, asking for sauces and dressings to be served separately and avoiding buffet-style, all-you-can-eat restaurants where it’s very easy to overindulge.
portions tend to be at least twice the size of a regular portion. Prevent
overeating by asking for a half portion, ordering a starter instead of a main
dish and avoiding buffet-style restaurants.
5. Start All Meals With a Glass of Water
Drinking a glass of water up to 30 minutes before a meal will naturally aid portion control.
Filling up on water will make you feel less hungry. Being well hydrated also helps you distinguish between hunger and thirst.
One study in middle-aged and older adults observed that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before each meal resulted in a 44% greater decline in weight over 12 weeks, most likely due to reduced food intake
Similarly, when overweight and obese older adults drank 17 ounces (500 ml) of water 30 minutes before a meal, they consumed 13% fewer calories without trying to make any changes
In another study in young normal-weight men, drinking a similar amount of water immediately before a meal resulted in greater feelings of fullness and reduced food intake
Therefore, having a glass of water before each meal can help prevent overeating and aid portion control.
a glass of water up to 30 minutes before a meal can naturally result in reduced
food intake and greater feelings of fullness.
6. Take It Slowly
Eating quickly makes you less aware of getting full — and therefore increases your likelihood of overeating.
As your brain can take around 20 minutes to register that you are full after eating, slowing down can reduce your total intake.
For example, one study in healthy women noted that eating slowly led to greater feelings of fullness and a decrease in food intake compared to eating quickly
What’s more, the women who ate slowly tended to enjoy their meal more
In addition, eating on the go or while distracted or watching TV boosts your likelihood of overeating
Therefore, focusing on your meal and refusing to rush increases the chances you’ll enjoy it and control your portion sizes.
Health experts recommend taking smaller bites and chewing every mouthful at least five or six times before swallowing
Summary Sitting down to meals with no other distractions
and eating slowly will regulate portion control and reduce your likelihood of