It’s easy to let the size of your meals get out of hand unless you follow a few of these tips for controlling portion sizes. It’s quite obvious that restaurant portion sizes are out of control, but it seems to be happening more and more at home too. Often, I see many clients that eat very little all day and then think that they can make up for this lack of nutrition through huge portion sizes at night. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Your body needs the most fuel throughout the day, during the time that you are the busiest and the most active; however, many people tend to eat their largest meal at the end of the day when they are the least active and the most sedentary. Large portion sizes can lead to weight gain over time if not adjusted and down sized quickly. Follow these tips for controlling portion sizes to prevent future weight gain and possibly fend off weight related diseases too!
One of the best tips for controlling portion sizes is to start measuring your food. No, I’m not saying you should measure out your food for the rest of your life, but just for about a week or so or until your eyes and brain begin to understand what a correct portion looks like. Use measuring cups for things like rice, pasta, and other grains, and measuring spoons for fats like olive oil, butter, spreads, dips, and nut butters. Once you begin to relearn what a true serving looks like and how many calories are in that serving, you might find yourself less likely to keep piling your plate high.
Another tip for controlling your portion sizes is to slow down when you eat. It takes about twenty minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach, so slow down the pace of your meal in order for your brain to realize you’re full before it’s too late. We’ve all experienced the guilt and sickness of what it feels like to overeat. By taking bites more slowly with more rests in between, you will allow your brain to tell your body you are full possibly before you have even finished your meal. A few suggestions to eat slower include engaging in conversation while you eat or simply be more mindful during the meal.
A sure-fire way to overeat is to eat directly from the food container. Instead, portion out what you plan on eating directly from the bag, box, container, etc. onto a plate or bowl and put the rest way. Often, we find ourselves eating simply because food is in front of us. If you take out only what you intend on eating and put the rest away, you remove the temptation of eating something because it is sitting in front of you.
Other than engaging in face-to-face meaningful conversation, everything else should be put off until after you have finished your meal. Things like computer work, watching television, talking on the phone, checking your social media accounts, driving, etc. all take your focus away from your meal which prevents your mind from fully grasping how much food you are eating. I don’t know about you but I’ve eaten an entire meal while reading an article or doing something else mindlessly without even realizing that I had finished nearly all of my meal. Meals should be savored and enjoyed in order to allow your mind and body to fully process the amount of food that you are eating.
This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s actually one of the hardest ones to do. Try serving yourself a little bit less than you think you will actually eat in order to slowly begin to decrease total portion sizes and calories. Foods like grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters and other fats can really add up, even in tiny amounts. For example, if you are making a peanut butter sandwich and just spread on however much looks good to you, you might be serving yourself far more calories than you actually realize. When you learn that one tablespoon of peanut butter has around 100 calories, you might learn to make one tablespoon go a little bit further!
A great way into tricking you mind into thinking you are eating more food than you actually are is to serve your food on smaller plates, bowls, glasses, etc. Using a smaller plate or bowl makes a smaller amount of food (and thus less calories!) seem like more. By using this tactic, you can easily begin to cut down your portion sizes without even missing the food!
Regardless of what your grandmother taught you, you don’t have to join the clean plate club! While my grandmother was the finest of ladies, growing up she always rewarded us for being a part of the clean plate club. I know she was only encouraging us to eat all of our vegetables but now, as a nutrition professional, I realize that this teaches people to eat until the food is gone instead of listening to their bodies own hunger cues. When you are feeling full, push away, regardless of what anyone says. You can always save the rest for later!
When it comes to controlling portion sizes, this is an ongoing challenge that we all have to face. I always recommend my clients to fill up on nutrient dense foods first before even reaching for the unhealthy foods. This way you are eating more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff; but keep in mind, just because it is healthy, doesn’t mean that it is calorie free! How do you control your portion sizes? Do you have a trigger food that once you start eating you just can’t stop?