How to Practice Portion Control

7 Secrets You Need to Know

Hand reaching for buffet food

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. Go Halfsies 

    You can cut the calories of your favorite foods in half without changing anything about them. Just eat half as much as you normally would. Save the second half for the same meal the next day.

    For example, if you usually eat a deli sandwich at lunch, eat half it. Put the second half in the fridge. Also, replace your chips with carrot sticks. Still hungry? Before you reach for the rest of your sandwich, munch on a piece of fruit. Fruits and veggies 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, choose an appetizer as your entree or 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. Don't Supersize...Ever!

    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 bargain 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 Things 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.)

    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. Get to Know Serving Size

    Just how many of those chips are in a serving? The nutrition label provides a guide, although serving size and portion size are technically two different things. Serving size (as defined on the label) is the amount of food typically consumed in one sitting. Portion size is how much you choose to eat. But, in general, your portion size shouldn't exceed the serving size.

    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. Buffets Be Gone

    An all-you-can-eat buffet is a dream come true for a bargain minded eater but a nightmare for someone watching their waistline. In general it is best to avoid them altogether. But if you must go, follow a few rules to keep your eating plan on track.
    First, scan the whole buffet before you grab a plate and get in line. Decide which foods you'll eat and which ones you'll skip. Then pass through the line once—and only once. As you load foods onto your plate, don't allow any foods to touch. That's a sneaky way to make sure that you aren't heaping your plate too high.
  1. 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. For example, a single portion of meat (three ounces) is the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. One ounce of meat is the size of a matchbook.  And one cup of potatoes, rice or pasta looks like a tennis ball.

As you learn different ways to practice portion control, most of these methods will become second nature. Your body and your brain will adjust to eating less and reaching your weight loss goals will become easier.