January 23, 2023

8 Ways To Get A Better Handle On Portion Control

In our “Super-Size Me” world of fast food, portions have gotten entirely out of control. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem in fast-food restaurants; it’s happening everywhere!

Even before the super-size meals became available, larger and larger beverage choices were offered. For example, in a Big Gulp® size of regular soda, you get a whopping 310 calories in a 32-oz. drink! A Super Big Gulp® packs over 500 calories, which can be approximately ¼ of your allotted daily calories. And that doesn’t count the meal or snacks you’re having with your drink. It’s easy to chug down a giant beverage like this without considering the calories you’re consuming.

Have you noticed the portion sizes at most restaurants? They are typically larger than what most people would eat as a meal at home. Even when you go to the movies, you are enticed to ‘buy up’ and purchase the largest tub of popcorn. The problem is, for most of us, we eat what we’re served.

Many studies show that when larger portions are in front of us, we’ll consume up to 50% more than our usual portions and all those calories add up! An extra 200 calories consumed daily over a year adds up to an additional 73,000 calories, which equals approximately 20 pounds of potential weight gain!

Being mindful and better prepared is key. Here are a few ways to do just that.

• Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Start your day with breakfast, plan to eat lunch, and bring a healthy snack to get you through the afternoon before dinner. Portion control is challenging when you’re starving! It is more challenging to control portion sizes when we skip meals or when we aren’t eating enough at each meal. We end up ravenous, reaching for anything and everything in sight. Being exceptionally hungry makes us vulnerable to poor food choices. When the “I’m starving” mode kicks in, it’s hard to put the brakes on! And skipping a meal to cut calories backfires. Our body is smart – it keeps track of what it needs, sends the white flag of hunger up, and, if we don’t listen, we easily overindulge.

• Focus on eating whole foods and avoid pre-packaged, processed food as much as possible. Include plenty of protein and vegetables until you are satiated (that feeling where you are about 80% full). Don’t deprive yourself. Deprivation always backfires, causing you to eat more food later in the day. By the way, most processed foods have chemical additives that make it challenging to limit consumption.

• Include quality food, like healthy fats, in your diet. This will help you feel satiated longer and allow your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins it needs. Ideas include avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, salmon, and beans. When we focus more on food quality, the portion control part usually takes care of itself. We don’t usually overdo it on broccoli and kale, right? Often, the issue is that our body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, so when we eat a meal (or snack) that doesn’t fulfill our needs on a cellular level, our body stays hungry, a signal that it needs more nutrition. Unfortunately, we usually grab more “fillers,” the foods lower in nutrients and higher in carbs and calories.

• Eat a healthy snack, like veggies, before dinner (especially if you’ll be eating out). When eating out, tell the server not to bring the rolls or chips to your table. Plan on taking part of your meal home for leftovers since most restaurants give you huge portions. You can ask for an extra plate, put ½ the meal on that plate, and pack the rest up to take home for leftovers. Do this before you start your meal.

• Using smaller plates can be helpful. When you put food on a large plate, you almost automatically want to try to fill it up and then finish it all. By using smaller plates (and bowls), you may eat less and still feel comfortably full. An article published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shares that we need to pay attention to the size and the color of the dinnerware we use. Those things impact how much we even serve ourselves. Interestingly in 1900, a dinner plate was a mere 9 inches. In 1950, plates were 10 inches, and by 2010 they had grown to a diameter of 12 inches.

• When snacking, place snacks in a small bowl or on a small plate instead of eating right out of the bag or container. This way, you can better manage portion size and be aware of the amount you’re consuming.

• Plan ahead when ordering a meal out if you plan to order dessert. Order a smaller size dinner or share your entree. There are healthy appetizers that can be equivalent to a full meal. Skip the alcohol and then enjoy a little dessert. Healthy eating is all about moderation. Don’t feel like you ‘can’t have it’; just decide what you would enjoy more and make the choice.

• Slow down when you eat by chewing your food. We end up eating less by slowing down and enjoying our food more. Digestion begins in the mouth with the chewing process. Enzymes that break down your food are released through your salivary glands. Chewing your food adequately allows your body to absorb and assimilate more nutrients and improves digestion. Because you’re taking more time to chew, you’ll notice that you feel full sooner, which means you’re much more likely to consume fewer calories.

Ask yourself, “What is the best choice I can make to give my body what it needs to thrive?” Quality counts. Instead of feeling like you must ration your food, focus on eating the most nutrient-dense quality foods you can find. These foods will have you feeling better, looking better, and being more in control of your food choices and portion sizes.