How to Control Food Portion Size

Serve yourself with the right amount of food for your body

Every restaurant you go to these days is offering bigger and bigger options for your buck. Naturally, we feel that more for less is always the best option, but when it comes to our waistlines, that is definitely not the case.

According to the National Institutes of Health, over the next decade, our life-expectancy as Americans is projected to decrease by as much as five years if we do not get our growing obesity problem under control. That is a very scary projection, but it doesn’t have to be the final outcome. The Mayo Clinic has recognized portion size as one of the main contributing factors to obesity in adults. Here a few quick tips on how to control food portion size.

Step 1: Know what a portion is

The first step in proper portion control is recognizing the difference between a serving and a portion. According to the Mayo Clinic, a portion is what is dished out to you on a plate — it may or may not be calorically appropriate for you to eat. A serving is the proper amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar of a certain item that you should eat. Beware of just guessing on serving sizes. Most of our plates, bowls and even glasses have increased in size over the years, making it seem like we are only having a small bowl of ice cream when in reality it’s twice the serving size.

Step 2: Know what a proper portion looks like

The second step in portion control is to know what the proper serving sizes for the foods you eat look like. The best and most accurate way to go about that is to be aware of the packaging your food comes in, read the labels and note the measurement or weight that is listed as a serving. Then, use measuring cups and spoons to serve yourself. If possible, you may want to invest in a small food scale to measure food weight.

If all else fails, WebMD offers some quick tips for eyeballing healthy portion sizes. For instance: An apple, representing a serving of fruit or vegetables, should be the size of a baseball; a potato should be the size of a computer mouse; and meat, fish, or poultry should measure about the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm.

Step 3: Apply portion control at every meal

The final step in portion control, once you have started it in your own kitchen, is to master it in someone else’s. The toughest part about eating out is that you cannot see how food is prepared. It may have hidden ingredients that raise the caloric value of the dish even if it seems to be the "right" portion size. There are a couple tricks you can use to combat unhealthy eating while dining out. For instance, if you order a salad, ask for oil and vinegar as your dressing. Or, if you order a sandwich, ask for it open-faced to restrict the amount of potentially unhealthy carbs. However, the best way to prepare to face giant portion sizes is to ask your server to bring a to-go box when your meal comes out. Box up half of your meal right away, and you will be less tempted to overeat.

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