Obesity is a growing epidemic, as more people than ever are struggling to control their weight. Increased portion sizes are one of the contributing factors to overeating and unwanted weight gain. So, here are some useful tips to measure and control your portion sizes — for both at home and when you’re on the go.
Equip Your Kitchen with the Right Tools
If you’re serious about portion control, it’s a good idea to invest in some kitchen staples that will make your job much easier. A good set of electronic kitchen scales to sit on your bench at all times, measuring cups and spoons, are all simple but essential tools if you want to know exactly what volumes of food you are consuming.
Use Smaller Dinnerware
Evidence suggests that sizes of plates, spoons and glasses can unconsciously influence how much food someone eats. For example, using large plates can make food appear smaller — often leading to overeating. In one study, people using a large bowl ate 77% more pasta than those using a medium-sized bowl. Swapping your usual plate, bowl or serving spoon for a smaller alternative can reduce the helping of food and prevent overeating.
Use Your Plate as a Portion Guide
A great solution if you are eating out and don’t have your measuring tools handy, is to try using your plate or bowl as a portion control guide. This can help you determine an optimal ratio for a well-balanced meal. A rough guide for each meal is:
- Vegetables or salad: Half a plate
- High-quality protein: Quarter of a plate — this includes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, beans and pulses
- Complex carbs: Quarter of a plate — such as whole grains and starchy vegetables
- High-fat foods: Half a tablespoon (7 grams) — including cheese, oils and butter
As vegetables and salad are naturally low in calories but high in fibre and other nutrients, filling up on these may help you avoid overeating calorie-dense foods.
Start All Meals with a Glass of Water
Drinking a glass of water up to 30 minutes before a meal can naturally aid portion control, so filling up on water can make you feel less hungry. Being well hydrated can also help you distinguish between hunger and thirst.
Eating quickly makes you less aware of getting full and therefore increases your likelihood of overeating. As your brain can take around 20 minutes to register that you are full after eating, slowing down can reduce your total intake. Eating slowly can also lead to greater enjoyment of your meal, helping you to savour the flavours and textures of what you’re eating.
Don’t Eat Straight from the Container
Jumbo-size packages or food served from large containers encourages overeating and less awareness of appropriate portion sizes. This is especially true for snacks. Evidence suggests that people tend to eat more out of large packages than small ones — regardless of food taste or quality. Rather than eating snacks from the original packaging, empty them into a small bowl to prevent eating more than you need.
Use a Food Diary
Writing down your total calorie intake can increase awareness of what you consume. Many people greatly underestimate the amount of food they consume in a day and often consume a lot of extra calories unconsciously. Seeing what you have consumed, written down in black and white, can be a great tool to understanding where you might be overeating and how you can manage your portion control more effectively.