7 Portion Control Secrets

Getting into the habit of controlling your portion sizes isn't as hard as you might think. It all comes down to finding ways to cut calories while continuing to eat the foods you enjoy. So here are seven ways to cut back on super-sized servings and pare down your portions.

  1. Meet yourself half-way.

    You can cut the calories of your favorite foods by 50% without changing anything about them -- just eat half. For example, if you usually eat a deli sandwich at lunch, eat half it, but replace your chips with carrot sticks. Still hungry? Before you reach for the rest of your sandwich, munch on a piece of fruit. Produce takes longer to eat and digest than other foods, which means you'll have more time to notice you're getting full. Plus, the added fiber in both the carrots and fruit will help you feel more satisfied, for much longer, than chips would have.

    When you are dining at a restaurant, ask the waiter for a take-out container as soon as he gets your order. Put half of your meal in the box as soon as it arrives. Try to eat slowly and enjoy the conversation and the restaurant's ambiance. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes to start to feel full, so eating at a slower pace will prevent you from overeating. You can always take some of the food back out of the carton at the restaurant if you're still truly hungry, but chances are you won't want to.

  1. Downsize your dinner.

    If heating up leftovers the next day isn't your cup of tea, find out if your eatery offers lunch-sized portions of their dishes. These are almost always significantly smaller than full-sized dinner entrees, so don't be afraid to ask if you can purchase the lunch entree at dinner time.

    If that's not an option, ask to order from the children's menu ... practicing this portion control pointer will save your waistline some inches and your wallet some bucks.

  2. Resist the "upsize" offer.

    As we all know, fast food portions are already oversized, so there's no need to add insult to injury by upgrading your meal. No matter how much of a "better deal" it may seem, don't be tempted. In fact, steering clear of "meal deals" altogether is very wise. You're much better off ordering a grilled chicken sandwich, or even a regular hamburger (hold the mayo on both), along with a side salad, than ordering a combo that comes with a silo-sized soda, too.

    Kids meals are a good alternative at fast food restaurants; they contain what were considered normal-sized portions for us grown-ups a few decades ago.

  1. Good portions come in small packages.

    If you find your will power is overpowered by a full bag of potato chips sitting in the pantry, don't buy the large bags. Get the individual lunch-sized bags one at a time. (Just don't buy the 12-bag assortment box of chips if you think you'll be tempted to finish off the entire box in a sitting. Mini bags of chips are three for $1 at my grocer, so that is exactly what I limit myself to.)

    If you're budget-minded, go ahead and buy the full-size bag and divvy out the chips into single serving zipper bags as soon as you get them home; you'll still be much more likely to keep yourself in check than if you were eating from the bag.

  1. Size up servings.

    Just how many of those chips are in a serving? Check the nutrition label to find out -- you may be surprised at how small an actual serving looks compared to what you usually eat. Learn what a serving is of your favorite snacks; start by measuring them out the next few times you eat them. Once you get into the habit of seeing how much a serving really looks like, you'll eventually be able to "eyeball" servings and know how much is too much.
  2. Be gone, buffets!

    My family is the gotta-love-a-bargain sort and going to a buffet used to be a weekly habit. (What could be better than all the food you want at one flat price?) I used to think I could tag along and still keep myself in check by sheer determination. The reality? I have to avoid buffets like the plague. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to practice portion control in an "all-you-can-eat" situation. If you've ever left a buffet feeling sick, just think about how you felt the next time you're tempted to gorge... that's what I do when I feel guilty about not going along.
  3. Compare to control.

    A really nifty way of learning to control portions is to mentally compare them with common, every day objects that you are used to seeing. Some of the reminders I use are that three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards or an audio tape; one ounce of meat is the size of a matchbook; and one cup of potatoes, rice or pasta looks like a tennis ball.

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