Struggling with portion control? You're definitely not alone. Many people struggle with getting food portions right. Because they don't know what a proper portion looks like, they eat too much or too little, and either way, may end up in an unhealthy situation. Maybe you've learned the proper serving sizes for foods, but you struggle with sticking to them. Whatever your particular struggle with portion control, here are some tips you can use to ensure that the amount of food you eat falls in line with your goal to lead a healthy life.
1. Use smaller plates
This is possibly the easiest way to keep yourself from overeating. Serving a meal on a small plate tricks your mind into believing you're taking a larger serving. A meal on a smaller plate looks bigger, and you'll probably feel fuller after finishing it. Try this trick with your next meal and be sure to evaluate how you feel after finishing your small plate. This practice of satisfaction evaluation is also a good idea to adopt after every meal. If you're satisfied, stop eating and go do something else!
2. Break out the measuring cups and spoons
Chances are, you might not even know what a serving of chicken or pasta or vegetables might look like. This becomes especially tricky for things like salad dressings, peanut butter and other foods we normally eyeball. To start to train your eye and better follow recommended portion sizes, break out your measuring cups and spoons and consider a kitchen scale. You might be surprised how much or how little is considered a serving. Once you've become familiar with the actual size of a serving, you can skip the measuring devices, but know yourself - if you need to stick to measuring things out in order to not over- or under-eat, feel free to measure away!
3. Avoid seconds
Pre-made, packaged food often comes in a couple of servings. Take a look at the beverage or bag of chips you're about to eat and see how many servings really lie inside. It can be extremely difficult to limit yourself to just half a bag! Yet another reason to make your own meals and snacks from whole foods. When you cook for yourself, you're able to control just how much you give yourself.
But cooking your own meals isn't always an option. And even when you do, if you're cooking for a whole family, you're going to have to make more than just one serving. So, to keep yourself from reaching for seconds, try to avoid serving meals family-style. Keep pots and dishes away from the dinner table. Instead, as soon as the meal is ready, plate the food for yourself and others in appropriate portions and then pack up the rest in plastic sealable containers that can be used in the fridge or freezer. Then, when you've finished, check in with yourself. If you're still hungry, wait 20 minutes. Chances are after this wait period, you’ll realize that you weren’t hungry enough for a second helping.
4. Prepare to face super-sized situations
As mentioned earlier, cooking your own meals isn't possible all the time. You’ll inevitably attend a party or go to a restaurant where super-sized portions threaten to derail your ability to control how much you eat. So what should you do in such situations? Follow these portion control tips for dining out:
- Fill up before: Research has shown that you are 2.5 times more likely to overindulge in starchy carbs, cheesy or fried foods if you show up at a party or event on an empty stomach. Have a healthy snack before attending an event that doesn't fill you up, but keeps you from feeling ravenous.
- Order less: When dining out, consider ordering an appetizer as your entree. If there's a decent kids' menu, find out if you can order off it. If the server offers you bread before your meal, politely decline.
- Ask for a box: If you order a full entree, ask for a box to come with the meal. Once food has arrived, immediately pack up half of it to avoid being tempted to finish it.
5. Make your favorite food a real indulgence
Contrary to what you might think, indulging once in a while can help you stick to your diet better than if you try to rigidly maintain it. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods can easily lead to overeating: A study done by researchers from the University of British Columbia found that keeping away from your favorite treats may cause your brain focus on them even more. So, instead of swearing off candy bars, Cheetos, mozzarella sticks and doughnuts completely, every so often let yourself enjoy one. The trick is to savor each bite and not eat mindlessly. Put the food on a plate, turn off the distractions and really indulge. You'll remember it for much longer and won't feel the pull to eat it as often.