Portion control is an essential element of weight management, but something many of us struggle with on a daily basis. For some, it drains their willpower and feels like a constant battle against their natural instincts. For others, it’s a case of not really knowing what constitutes a ‘portion’ or how much (or how little) they should really be eating.
So, what’s the best approach in this situation? Start weighing all your food? Count every calorie? They’re both likely to work, but they’re not really that practical in the real world.
Practical approaches to portion control
There tend to be two aspects that need to be addressed when it comes to portion control; sufficiency and satisfaction. Sufficiency is all about consuming the correct amount of food without overeating excess calories. Satisfaction focuses on feeling full after a meal and not deprived or hungry.
Here are some practical strategies that can help you address both:
1 Use smaller bowls & plates
The size of your plates and bowls has a profound effect on determining your portion size. Most of us will automatically fill up our plate with food, which means we’re being influenced by the crockery instead of how much we really need.
Numerous scientific studies have examined whether the size of someone’s plate can impact their perception of how much food is really there. Results overwhelmingly show that portions seem smaller when served on a large plate. This leads to people unconsciously overeating without even realising it.
Try serving meals on a smaller plate and see how it affects your portion control. Or test out using a bowl instead of a large plate to see if that makes a difference. This can have a powerful effect on your subconscious perception of how much food you’re eating and how satisfied you feel afterwards.
2 Read the labels
It might sound surprising, but many of us don’t actually know what a ‘correct’ portion size should be. We tend to go by the portions that our parents served up for us as a child, or how much a restaurant gives us. But these aren’t necessarily the correct sizes for a balanced diet.
An easy solution is to read the nutritional labels on food packets. They include an estimate of what a correct serving is, based on the average requirement of 2000 calories per day for an adult. For example, an individual serving of pasta is considered 75g which is about 1/6 of a small packet, but some people will easily eat twice as much as this without thinking about it. Checking the labels can help you to determine how much to cook per person and manage portion control.
3 Use your hands as a guide
Did you know you can use your hands as a guide to portion size? Instead of having to weigh or measure your food, simply judge it against the size of your hand for an easy portion control solution. This works well because your hands are proportional to your body size which means it should be roughly personalised to your needs.
A protein serving should be approximately the size of your palm for women or two palms for men, so use this when deciding a portion of meat, fish, eggs, or similar protein-rich foods. A vegetable portion should be one clenched fist size for women and two for men. When it comes to carbohydrates like rice, potato, or fruit, one cupped handful is sufficient for women or two for men. Lastly, fat-rich foods such as nuts or spreads should be no larger than the size of your thumb if you’re a woman or two thumbs for a man. Following this guide will help you judge portion sizes accurately with ease.
4 Decide in advance
For many of us, portion control isn’t something we think about – it’s just something we accept. But it’s this passive approach that can get us into trouble if it leads to unconscious overeating. One surprisingly effective strategy is simply to decide in advance how much we intend to eat. It might be resolving not to reach for the bread basket when out for dinner, or just having two squares of chocolate instead of the whole bar. This approach may not work for everyone, but making a commitment to portion control can be an effective step.
5 Take advantage of appetite suppressants
If you struggle with willpower or feel like your hunger will get the better of you, then an appetite suppressing supplement like PhenQ can help. Appetite suppressants make it much easier to cut calories without feeling hungry or deprived. They can also help you to avoid accidentally over-eating which leads to weight gain without you even realising it. The scientifically-proven formula of PhenQ contains a combination of Chromium Picolinate, caffeine, and Nopal to help curb your hunger cravings, as well as ⍺-Lacys Reset®, Capsimax powder, and Calcium carbonate to increase fat burning at the same time.
6 Measure fats carefully
One key strategy for successful portion control is measuring fats carefully. Fat contains 9 calories per gram compared with just 4 calories per gram in carbs and protein. This means it’s much more energy dense, so accidentally over-consuming it can have a big impact on our waistline.
We mentioned above that a portion of fat should be no larger than the size of your thumb for women or two thumbs for men. This applies to spreads like butter, margarine, Nutella, and peanut butter. It’s also important to be careful when pouring oils into pans or salads since it’s easy to misjudge the amount unless you’re measuring it. Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet but taking extra care with your portions can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
Finding the approach that works for you
These practical approaches to portion control can help you manage your calorie intake and gradually lose weight. Being proactive about your portions is the first step, no matter which method you decide to go with. There is no one-size-fits-all solution as we’re all individuals with unique eating habits. Ultimately, we all need to learn to listen to our bodies and respond to what it’s trying to tell us, but this can seem difficult when first starting our weight loss journey. The key is trying different methods and finding the one that works for us.
How do you manage your portion sizes? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below…