Controlling your portion sizes is an important aspect of eating a healthy and suitable diet. It isn't always easy to eyeball how much food you're eating, though, because many restaurants and food packages call a huge plate of food or a large package of snacks one serving even though it's much more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You've likely heard of portion control dishes and common items that equal a serving size, but you don't always have those things on hand. Having an arsenal of easy ways to control your food intake in other ways can help you reach your goals.
Tips to Control Food Portion Sizes
Tips for Eating at Home
Measuring out portion sizes at home is easy with measuring cups and spoons as well as a kitchen scale to measure foods. However, you have other options that are much less time-consuming. Check out the following tips next time you get ready to portion out your meal at home.
- Divide your plate. This means a standard dinner plate, not one of the monsters you get at a restaurant. Half the plate should contain fruits and/or vegetables. The other half of the plate should be equal portions lean protein and starch, according to the experts at Cooking Light magazine. Do this at every meal and you'll get the nutrients you need while also keeping your calorie intake under control.
- Portion out large packages of food. If you purchase large bags of snacks such as popcorn, crackers or cheese, take the time to divide the packages into single servings. That way, when hunger strikes, you can open the cabinet and refrigerator and grab one portion and aren't at risk of downing the entire container. You can also serve your snack in a small bowl to help keep you from eating more than one portion, adds the CDC.
- Remember that serving size and portion size aren't exactly the same thing, according to Health magazine. A serving size is clearly listed on the package. That's the amount of food you should portion out to keep things under control. Go ahead and use measuring tools, if you need to, until you can eyeball what a properly sized portion should look like.
- Avoid family style dining, advises the CDC. Having all that food right in front of you on the table means you're more likely to refill your plate after eating a portion. The occasional indulgence won't derail your efforts, but frequently adding portions to your plate can hinder weight loss and contribute to weight gain. Leave the food on the counter and you are better able to resist the lure of another portion.
- Buy smaller dishes. This makes it natural to serve yourself proper portions instead of overloading without realizing it. If the plate is huge, you may unwittingly put more than a portion on it even if you think you're serving up the right amount, notes Cooking Light magazine. Trade your dishes in for smaller versions and controlling your portions will be much easier.
Tips for Eating Out
There's no question that eating out is enjoyable and allows you to have foods you don't at home. However, restaurants are notorious for serving huge servings that can quickly get in the way of your portion control goals. That doesn't mean you can't dine out, but using the following tips can help you keep your food intake moderate.
- Share a meal, suggests the CDC. If you can't resist your favorite pasta dish, but know that it's much more than one portion, share it with a friend. That way you get to indulge, but won't eat more portions than you realize or intend.
- Order an appetizer instead of an entree, encourages the Weight Watchers weight loss program. They're often much smaller and can help keep you from consuming more than you mean to at a restaurant. The kids menu is another place to order smaller meals, though some restaurants don't allow you to do that. If they do, choose a kid-sized meal and you're much more likely to get a healthy portion size.
- Bag half your meal before you eat. Ask your server to do this for you, or ask for a box right away and put part of your meal in it right away. This helps keep you from eating the whole plate of food at restaurants where you know a meal is more than one healthy portion, notes Health magazine.
Planning Is Key
Nothing gets in the way of making healthy choices like failing to have a plan. Before you begin preparing a meal or ordering off a restaurant menu, make a quick plan of action regarding how you're going to keep your portions in check. Decide what you'll eat, how much you'll prepare or order, how much of it you'll eat and how much you'll save for another time. These easy steps let you enjoy meals without having to whip out your measuring tools every time you sit down at the table.