Portion controlling is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body fat percentage. It means eating the right amount of food to meet your nutritional needs while also avoiding overeating. Portion controlling is not necessarily about eliminating foods from your diet but about consuming them in the right quantities. Here are 13 tips for portion control to help you manage your weight more effectively.
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Portion Control Definition
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we gotta make sure everyone understands what portion control means.
The definition of portion controlling food is straightforward: it means controlling the amount of food you consume in each meal or snack to ensure that you are not overeating.
Portion controlling involves managing the quantity of food you consume & ensuring that it is in proportion to your body’s needs.
The goal is to consume enough food to fuel your body without overloading it with excess calories.
The concept of portion control is based on the idea that consuming too much food can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems. In contrast, consuming too little food can lead to malnutrition, which can also have adverse health effects.
Does portion controlling food really work?
Coming from someone that spent her 20’s and a good chunk of her 30’s with her weight fluctuating between Obesity and Morbid Obesity, and has lost over 100 lbs (and maintained within 10 lbs for years…you can read my free fitness series here)… I am here to tell you that you absolutely need to add portion controlling your food intake to your daily habits if you want to reach, and maintain your fitness goals.
The majority of learning about fitness is deprogramming your brain, and your habits, and reprogramming yourself…and learning correct portions in addition to forcing yourself to create it as a new habit is key to being successful in the fitness department.
Even if you don’t want to count calories to manage your weight, this article goes over lots of helpful tips that can still help you on your journey to a healthier you.
How to portion control (with video)
Here are some of my best tips when learning how to portion your food properly. First, I will share a video with the condensed version of each tip, and then if you would like more information keep scrolling down and read more about each category.
1. Learn to practice mindful eating.
Mindful eating involves paying attention to the present moment while you are eating. It is an approach to food that involves being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while consuming food. Being a mindful eater aims to help people develop a healthy relationship with food by focusing on the pleasure and nourishment that food can provide.
Mindful eating involves using all of your senses while eating. It requires you to be fully present and engaged in the experience of eating, paying attention to the colors, smells, textures, nutritional value, and flavors of your food. It also involves paying attention to your physical sensations, such as hunger and fullness cues, and your emotions, such as stress or boredom.
One of the key principles of mindful eating is to eat slowly and savor every bite. This approach allows you to fully experience the taste and texture of your food, helping you feel more satisfied and nourished. It also gives your body time to send signals of fullness to your brain, which can help prevent overeating. I have even gone so far as to call my breakfast and lunch meals as my “breakfast ritual”, and my “lunch ritual”
Mindful eating also involves being aware of your thoughts and feelings around food. This approach encourages you to recognize and accept your thoughts and emotions without judgment. For instance, if you feel guilty or ashamed about eating a particular food, you can acknowledge those feelings and remind yourself that it is okay to enjoy appropriate amounts of any food without guilt or shame (which has been a particularly hard thing for me in the process of overcoming binge eating disorder).
Another aspect of mindful eating is tuning in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. This means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It also involves being aware of how different foods make you feel and choosing foods that make you feel good and energized.
The benefits of mindful eating are numerous. According to Harvard University, research has shown that it can help people lose weight, improve their relationship with food, and reduce binge eating and emotional eating. It can also help people become more in tune with their bodies and their needs, leading to better overall health and well-being.
So, learn to be mindful in your eating. Try to be fully present and engaged in the experience of nourishing your body. Use all of your senses to savor and enjoy your food, being aware of your thoughts and emotions around food, and tuning in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. This can help you develop a healthy relationship with food, improve your overall health and well-being, and prevent overeating and weight gain.
2. Use Portion Control Tools/ Measure Your Food/ Or Count Calories
These portion controlling tools are made that way to make it easier for you to visualize the appropriate amount of food to consume. Also, just using regular measuring cups, or a food scale can help you control your food portions too.
Remember that they don’t just list the nutritional information on the back of the box just for fun…it is to ensure that you are consuming the recommended serving size or number of calories (aka, not going totally overboard). So try to get in the habit of paying attention to the recommended serving size.
3. Use Smaller Plates/Cups/Bowls To Control Portion Size
If you don’t want to count calories or measure things out to maintain your weight, it’s a good idea to start using smaller plates, cups, and bowls when eating (even using “kid-sized” dishes works). Using smaller dishes can help you eat less food in general.
It’s a silly way to trick your mind into thinking that you are consuming a larger portion than you actually are. In addition to using smaller dishes, make sure to not go for second or third helpings too.
4. Fill Half Of Your Plate With Fruits And Vegetables And Only Eat Quality Carbs
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, and beneficial fiber (which also makes them filling). This makes fruits and vegetables an ideal choice for portion controlling.
Make sure to fill at least half of your plate with these foods. I personally don’t count the calories in green vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and any other non-starchy veggies…which encourages me to eat more of them too.
When it comes to eating carbs, make sure that you are trying to eat whole grains as often as possible. Eating quality carbs (that are fiber rich) naturally fill you up more so you feel full faster and eat less naturally. If you would like to read what I wrote about “the skinny on carbs and weight management”, go here.
5. Portion Control Hands
Using your hands can help you control your food portions, especially if you happen to be in a public setting and would feel silly getting out any of your tools used for controlling portion sizes.
For instance, a serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, while a serving of grains should be the size of your closed fist. Using your hands as a guide is a sneaky way to make sure that you are getting the right amounts of the nutrients that you need.
6. Control Your Snacking & Avoid Eating Straight Out Of The Container Or Bag
Snacking between meals is a very common cause of overeating. To control your snacks, portion them into individual servings before consuming them. I even recommend buying things in the individual serving sized packaging until you have developed enough self control to portion them out yourself.
I know that I typically say “buying in bulk” is the way to go to save money…but when you are reprogramming your brain, you sometimes need that extra help of having it portioned out for you already.
Also, keep in mind that no matter what you are eating, candy included, make sure that you are pairing it with a protein so that it will trick your body into feeling more full.
7. Limit High Calorie Or Fattening Foods
High-calorie foods, such as fried foods, sweets, and snacks, should be consumed in moderation. Limiting these foods can help you control your food portions and maintain a healthy weight.
I even go so far as to only eat the junky food in the middle of the day, when my body will for sure have time to burn it off, or I save my cheesecake indulging for the days that I do my heavy workouts.
8. Eat Slowly
Eating slowly can help one eat less by allowing the body to properly register feelings of fullness and satisfaction. When we eat quickly, we tend to consume more food than our bodies actually need before our bodies have a chance to signal to our brains that we are full. This is because it takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to receive signals from the digestive system that it is satisfied.
Eating slowly allows us to chew our food more thoroughly, which can also aid in digestion. As we chew, we break down our food into smaller pieces, making it easier for the body to process and absorb the nutrients. This can lead to better absorption of nutrients and a reduced risk of digestive issues such as bloating and gas.
Additionally, eating slowly allows us to savor the flavors and textures of our food, which can increase feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment. This can reduce the temptation to eat more than necessary, as we are more likely to be satisfied with the amount of food we have consumed.
9. Drink Lots Of Water
Making sure that I was drinking enough water every single day was actually the first step in me figuring out my fitness journey…you can read about that here.
Drinking enough water can make you feel full because it can help reduce feelings of hunger and increase feelings of fullness. When we drink water before or during a meal, it can help fill up the stomach and reduce the amount of food we consume during that meal.
Water has no calories or fat, so it can also be a healthier alternative to sugary drinks and snacks that can contribute to weight gain. By drinking enough water, we can also help to prevent dehydration, which can sometimes be confused with feelings of hunger.
Furthermore, research has shown that drinking water can increase metabolism and calorie burn, which can also contribute to weight loss or weight management. When the body is adequately hydrated, it can function more efficiently and effectively, allowing us to better utilize the energy and nutrients from the food we consume.
Drinking enough water can make you feel full by helping to fill up the stomach, reducing feelings of hunger, and increasing feelings of fullness. It can also contribute to weight loss or weight management by helping to prevent overeating and increasing metabolism. I personally find that I get less cravings for sugar in general when I am making sure to stay properly hydrated. It makes it much easier to stay on track with all of my portion controlling endeavors
10. Avoid Distractions While Eating
Eating while distracted, such as watching TV or using your phone, can cause you to overeat if you have not gone to the lengths of portioning everything out beforehand.
Focus on your food, instead of all of the other craziness around you to help you control your food portions.
If you need to eat out in a restaurant, try to plan ahead, view the menu online and figure out what you will order and how it will fit into your daily nutritional needs so that you don’t have to worry about it later (or so that you’re less likely to make a poor haphazard choice because you’re distracted in the moment).
11. Learn How To Intermittent Fast
Intermittent fasting, or just plain getting in the habit of not eating past a certain time each night is the easiest way to reduce calorie intake because you have developed a habit of telling yourself that you absolutely do not need to eat past a certain time of day…
Especially if you like to graze in the evenings/night when you are not up moving a lot and burning calories. Yep, sometimes portion controlling means that you’re not eating at all at some times during the day.
If you would like to read what I have shared about intermittent fasting, go here. If you would like to read my thoughts on the benefits of not eating at night, go here.
12. Be Aware Of Peer Or Familial Pressure When It Comes To Eating Or Drinking
Did you know that we learn much of our eating habits at home or with the people that we spend a lot of time with? We learn not only portion sizes, but about most of our basic food choices too.
I come from a blue-collar family that has multiple generations of obesity in our line, so when I tell you this, I know what I’m talking about…and breaking out the the family-obesity-pattern-mold is tough!
It’s important to realize that obesity doesn’t actually “run in the family”. It’s those food choices and mega-out-of-control portion sizes, the familial bad habits that get passed down…that’s the only thing that actually “runs in the family”.
Even the bad habit of turning to food or alcohol as a coping mechanism can be passed down from generation to generation…and those coping mechanisms/behaviors often come with an insane amount of calories too.
Learning to portion control is about taking control of your own life, wanting better health for yourself than generations past, and it is absolutely vital to realize that just because everyone else is heaping their plates full you do have a choice when it comes to your health.
You don’t need to give in to this type of peer pressure…and if anyone acts abusive about you trying to be healthy (like making fun of you for counting calories or making healthy food choices)…send them to this post. I don’t mind “telling it like it is”, because that abusive behavior needs to not get passed down to future generations too.
13. Put all of your food on a serving tray before you begin eating
Putting my food on a tray helps me to see how much food I am actually eating, as well as it has helped me learn how much food is enough, and it’s easy to see if I am hitting all of my desired nutritional markers if it is all there in one place.
Plus, forcing myself to sit down with my tray and focus on it before I get to my next task has been the biggest help in becoming mindful.
Portion Controlling FAQ’s
Portion control can help you manage your weight and improve your overall health, but it does not necessarily mean that you can eat whatever you want without any consequences. While portion control can help you consume appropriate amounts of food, it is still important to make healthy choices and choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible.
For example, consuming appropriate portion sizes of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best. On the other hand, consuming large portions of high-calorie, high-fat, or high-sugar foods can contribute to weight gain and other health issues, even if you are consuming appropriate portions.
Additionally, it is important to consider the quality of the foods you are consuming, as some foods may be more nutritious than others. For example, a serving of vegetables provides a different set of nutrients than a serving of processed snack foods, even if the portions are the same.
In summary, while portion control can be a helpful tool for weight management and overall health, it is still important to make healthy choices and choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible.
Yes, it is possible to lose weight just by practicing portion control. Weight loss ultimately comes down to creating a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume. Portion control can help you achieve this by reducing the number of calories you consume, without necessarily having to change the types of food you eat.
By consuming appropriate portion sizes, you can reduce the total number of calories you consume each day, which can help create a calorie deficit and ultimately lead to weight loss. In fact, research has shown that portion control can be an effective strategy for weight loss, particularly when combined with other healthy habits such as regular physical activity, a balanced and nutritious diet, and mindfulness practices such as paying attention to hunger and fullness cues.
It is important to note, however, that portion controlling alone may not be enough to achieve significant or sustained weight loss for everyone. Other factors such as genetics, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits may also play a role in weight management, and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Determining the appropriate portion size for your individual needs can be tricky, as it can vary based on factors such as age, gender, activity level, and overall health goals. However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you determine appropriate portion sizes for common types of food:
Protein: A serving of protein is typically about 3-4 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
Carbohydrates: A serving of carbohydrates is typically about 1/2 cup, or about the size of a tennis ball.
Fruits and vegetables: A serving of fruits and vegetables is typically about 1 cup, or about the size of your fist.
Fats: A serving of fats, such as oils or nuts, is typically about 1 tablespoon, or about the size of your thumb.
It can also be helpful to use tools such as portion control plates or bowls, which are specifically designed to help you measure out appropriate portion sizes. These tools typically have pre-marked sections that indicate appropriate serving sizes for different types of food.
Additionally, you can use apps or websites that offer calorie and nutrition information for different types of food, which can help you better understand appropriate portion sizes based on your individual needs and goals.
Ultimately, it is important to listen to your body and pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, as well as any other factors that may influence your portion sizes, such as stress, emotions, or social cues. By practicing mindful eating and paying attention to your body’s signals, you can develop a better sense of appropriate portion sizes for your individual needs.
Why Portion Control Is Important
Overall, becoming a portion controller can change your life in many positive ways, including improved weight management, a healthier diet, better digestion, increased energy levels, more mindful eating practices, it can reduce your risk for obesity-related illness and death, and give one a better sense of self-control and discipline.
Learning better self-control and discipline in your eating will actually transfer over to all the other areas of your life too. When I gained control of my eating, it made me believe in myself more in my career, and as a mother. It has even improved my self-esteem ten-fold.
Well, that’s all I have to share today, and I hope that these tips for portion control will help you along on your own fitness journey.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and supporting my endeavors to make people’s lives a little easier/better/more affordable. If you liked this post, or found it helpful in any way, please make sure to share it with your family, friends, and co-workers via social media…or you could even send them the direct link via email. Whichever way you choose to spread the love, I super appreciate it! ~Sarah
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Other Helpful Resources:
Here are several of my posts that I think are particularly helpful:
Major websites that have great info on the topic that you should also read:
- Healthline.com shares 9 Tips To Measure And Control Portion Sizes
- CDC.gov shares How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight
- Mayoclinic.org shares Visuals For Appropriate Portion Sizes
*Please note that this article was originally published to this website on 03/15/2023, and will be/has been continually updated to improve user experience, as well as to remain as relevant as possible.