Six Top Tips for Portion Control
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Portion control is one of the biggest challenges many of us face. The amount we eat is affected by how we shop, prepare, serve and store foods at home, and also by how we order when we eat out.
The amount of food we purchase, prepare and eat has increased dramatically in the last 30 years or so. It's been estimated that we're eating about 600 calories more per day than we did in 1970.
And it's not hard to see why. The number of "bargain sized" packages in supermarkets has gone up ten-fold, and restaurant portions are about two and a half times larger than the recommended government servings. Our dinner plates have gotten larger, too. They hold about 36 percent more food than they did 30 years ago. And thanks in part to supersizing, we're slurping down an extra 135 calories a day from beverages alone.
Here are the six best tips that can help you to control your portions:
- Bulk shopping can add pounds. Studies show that we serve ourselves more from large containers than smaller ones, so keep this in mind if you buy large packages of food which are, admittedly, more economical. Determine ahead of time how much you'll serve yourself so you can keep your portions reasonable.
- Use a smaller plate, and tall, slender glasses. Our brains respond to a full plate of food, so using smaller plates really does help. Our portions are determined, in large, by how much we're served, and we tend to eat whatever we're served, whether it's a little or a lot. Smaller plates and tall, slender glasses give the illusion that they hold more than they do.
- When you dish up meals at home, do it in the kitchen. That way, you'll establish your portion right away. Placing the serving dishes on the table makes it too tempting to take "just another spoonful." And, if you are tempted to go back for seconds, at least you'll take a moment to stop and think about it first.
- Portion-out tempting foods, and keep them out of sight. When foods are highly visible, you're more likely to eat them, which is why keeping candy on your desk or the coffee table is generally a bad idea. If you want to limit your sweets, portion them out, wrap them up, then store them out of sight on a high shelf.
- When you eat out, ask that half your order be "to go." That way, you'll get half of what would normally be served, your portion is determined ahead of time, and you'll have something for lunch the next day. You can also try ordering a few items from the appetizer section of the menu, since portions are usually much smaller.
- Some people find that eating from a bowl helps. While even a small plate can be piled high, a reasonable sized bowl can only hold so much, so making sure your entire meal can fit in your bowl is a strategy that might work for you.