If you're trying to lose weight, learning to cut back on portion sizes could be your path to long-term success. A few simple tools are needed to get you started, and you'll need to exercise self-control with food. Once you learn the proper portion sizes for foods and what they look like, you'll be more successful at mastering portion control and losing weight.
Limiting Portions When Eating at Home
Read the food product label of what you are about to eat in order to determine the size of a serving for the food. If it is a food item such as a fruit or vegetable, which does not have a label, look up the proper serving size online or in a reference book.
Use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to measure the exact amount of one serving of the food you would like to eat.
Place the measured amount of food on your plate or in your bowl and put the remainder of the food away.
Eat only the food you have measured onto your plate and do not take a second serving.
Limiting Portions When Eating Out
Order a small-size meal, lunch portion or an appetizer as a meal.
Ask your server for a to-go box when you order a meal in a restaurant.
Using comparisons to everyday objects, determine roughly how many portions of food are in your meal before eating. According to the National Institutes of Health, a 3-ounce portion of meat is roughly the size of a deck of playing cards, a 1/2-cup serving of a food is about the size of a tennis ball and 2 tablespoons is comparable to a ping-pong ball.
Portion food into two or three servings on your plate, depending on the size of the meal served to you, and put all but one portion into the to-go container.
Eat the one portion of food remaining on your plate and take the rest home to eat for another meal.
- Drinking water during or before meals can help you to feel more full while eating a smaller portion of food. It's also a good idea to eat slowly when attempting to limit portions, which will help you enjoy your smaller amount of food more. To slow down your eating, try putting down your fork or spoon between every bite. You may also want to eliminate distractions while you are eating. If you pay more attention to your food, you'll have a better idea how much you have eaten.
- The Mayo Clinic cautions against eating directly from a package when trying to limit portions, because you'll have no idea how much you have eaten. Instead, measure a serving of the food, put it in a bowl and put the package away.
Erica Kannall is a registered dietitian and certified health/fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine. She has worked in clinical nutrition, community health, fitness, health coaching, counseling and food service. She holds a Bachelor of Science in clinical dietetics and nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.