If you struggle with portion control and regularly go back for seconds, or cannot leave a plate unfinished despite feeling already full, here are 5 tricks to portion control, which may help you eat in a more balanced way:
1. Aim for 1/3 less
If you are prone to overeating, portion aside 1/3 of the meal/snack into another container. Consume what is on your plate knowing you can have the remaining 1/3 if hungry. After eating, wait at least 20 minutes and then consciously ask yourself if you are truly hungry and need the extra 1/3 or if you’re craving it for another reason such as boredom or stress. Only eat the extra 1/3 if you know you’re truly hungry and it will make you feel good.
2. Have a general understanding of balance
The right balance of food will slightly change for everyone but as a general rule a good framework to use is: 1/2 plate low starch veg (leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, cucumber and so on), ¼ plate lean protein (fish, chicken, lean red meat, dairy, eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts/seeds), ¼ plate complex carbs (sweet potato, wholegrains, oats, fruit, sourdough/wholegrain bread, legumes) and 1 tablespoon of healthy fats (fatty fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil and nuts/seeds). The actual portions within each of those will differ depending on our individual needs. When eating in this way, our body is most satisfied and less likely to crave further food soon after finishing a meal.
3. Avoid eating straight from a packet
An oldie but a goodie – it’s very easy to lose track of how much you have eaten when eating straight from a packet or out of a container. Instead, portion out a serving of food and place it on a plate or a small bowl if you’re eating a snack. Remember that you can go back for seconds if you’re still hungry but it’s likely you will surprise yourself and if you eat mindfully, the first serve will satisfy you.
4. Mindful eating
Mindful eating must make the list when talking about portion control because the essence of mindful eating is to eat away from distraction, and in tune with your body and natural hunger cues. When we eat with our mind elsewhere, we are less likely to eat slowly and savour each bite. This disconnect from food can lead to dissatisfaction following the end of a meal because it hasn’t really registered with us that we have eaten and can cause us to eat past the point of satisfaction.
5. Use smaller Dinnerware
If you regularly serve dinner on a large plate or pour cereal into a deep soup bowl, it’s easy to be tempted to overfill the plate/bowl. This is because many of us are guided by the size of our kitchenware rather than the size of our stomachs and hunger. If you feel this may be relevant to you, try serving dinner on a smaller plate and see if you are as equally satisfied by this new portion. The same goes for storage containers; if you take leftovers to work in a large container, it’s likely you will fill it up and eat the entire contents without thinking.