7 Easy Tips to Make Portion Control Your Super Weapon for Weight Loss

Serving Size

Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy food may still lead to weight gain. How, you ask? It’s a matter of portion sizes. The larger the portion, the more calories in. That’s why it’s crucial to be aware of not just WHAT we eat but HOW MUCH. Here are some suggestions that can help you better portion your food.

Tip #1: Use visual aids for common food serving sizes
Examples:

  • Meat, fish, or poultry = 3 ounces = deck of cards / iPod (Yes, that’s a portion, not a plate sized steak!)
  • Pasta, rice, potatoes = one cup = baseball
  • Potato, yam = one unit = computer mouse
  • Nuts = 1/4 cup = golf ball
  • Salad dressing or olive oil = 2 Tbsp = shot glass
  • Peanut butter = 2 Tbsp = shot glass
  • Ice cream = half cup = half baseball
  • Cheese = 2 ounces = 2 fingers

Tip #2: Read the serving size information on the Nutrition Facts Panel
Processed foods have a nutrition facts label and the first thing it shows is the serving size. All the calorie and nutrient information that follows is calculated per serving. But sometimes the serving size is tiny compared to what people really eat. For example, many cereals list the serving as half a cup (one ounce). Even 7 year olds eat more than that, so make sure you accurately account for the true portion size you consumed.

Tip #3: Understand how many servings are in a package
As a follow up to the previous tip, it’s important to know how many servings are in a package. A small bag of Doritos that you can finish off in 5 minutes or less may actually contain 2.5 servings! That means two and a half times the calories you were expecting. Beverage bottles are notorious portion expanders. The small bottle of Naked Juice or POM you just got from the vending machine, at the lunch buffet, or convenience store actually has TWO servings of liquid. A serving of juice (or soda, or water) is 1 cup (8 fluid ounces), but these bottles usually provide you with double that amount, 16 ounces. Share with a friend, or better yet, drink water!

Tip #4: When eating out, ask for the small or kids sized portions
Restaurant and fast food meals have ballooned in size in the last 30 years. A 280 calorie Caesar salad in 1985 is now over 700 calories! It’s an arms race between competing chains for dollar value, but your weight and health are the collateral damage. Ask for the junior portions or share a large portion with a friend.

Tip #5: Never eat out of the bag or box
If you bought a family size bag of pretzels, or a gallon tub of ice cream, the worst possible thing to do is eat straight out of the package, especially in front of the TV. It will cause mindless eating and multiple serving syndrome…

Tip #6: Plate in the kitchen, eat in the dining room
The easiest way to overeat is having the serving dishes on the dining table within arm’s reach. Plate your food in the kitchen then serve it at the table. The only exception should be a large pitcher of water on the table.

Tip #7: Fresh fruits and veggies get a free pass
Fresh produce is usually high in nutrients and low in calories. Adding more into your diet or a meal is a good idea, even if you go over on your portion size. The fiber in produce will help you feel full and less hungry.

For more ideas on how to portion control, please see the work of Dr Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN (a.k.a the Portion Teller) here and here.

How do you stay mindful of your food quantity intake?

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