4 Easy Portion-Control Tricks to Kick Overeating to the Curb
1. Downsize Your Dinnerware
"If you currently eat from 10-inch plates, an 8- or 9-inch plate filled similarly may end up feeling and looking like virtually the same amount of food while in reality being a meaningful reduction," Fear says. In fact, in one famed Cornell study, people who used 12-inch plates served themselves 52 percent and ate 42 percent more food than those who used 9-inch plates. You'll be glad to know that the people who ate less (and off of smaller plates) reported that they enjoyed their meals just as much as those who ate more – so no going hungry with this trick.
"If you customarily pack food to bring to work, this tactic may mean using a different bowl or lidded container, not necessarily a plate," Fear says. "And don't forget bowls. A half-cup portion of granola looks sad and lonely in a big bowl, not nearly adequate. But in a smaller ramekin, it's much more appealing and looks fine. A small portion of ice cream looks a lot more satisfying in a little bowl. Baking single servings of food in ramekins is another fun way to manage portions of foods like macaroni and cheese, lasagna or fruit crisp."
2. Think Produce First
Before putting pasta, meat and more on your plate, fill half of it with fruits and vegetables(although the bulk should be veggies), Fear recommends. Once you do that, overdoing it on portions or calories is pretty darn difficult. That's because produce, especially non-starchy vegetables like green beans and broccoli, are low in calories but high in filling nutrients like fiber, says St. Louis-based registered dietitian Alex Caspero. By taking up valuable real estate in your stomach, and by delaying gastric emptying time, you'll feel fuller, sooner. And even if you do clean your plate, half of it was veggies – so way to go! In fact, one comprehensive review published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that prioritizing the addition of low-cal, nutrient-dense foods like veggies to your diet, as opposed to the subtraction of high-cal foods, is a far easier way to maintain healthy portion sizes for weight loss.
What's more, it's important to remember that, when it comes to building your plate, you don't have to keep your veggies separate from everything else. Rather, by preparing your favorite dishes (from pastas and casseroles to omelets and sandwiches) with extra vegetables mixed in, you can easily reap veggies' satiety-boosting benefits, Caspero says. Plus, if you're not a big fan of veggies, integrating them into your dishes can be a lot more appetizing than a side of Brussels sprouts or salad.
3. Give Yourself a Hand
"You can use your hands as an always-with-you portion-control guide," Fear says. One serving of meat, eggs, fish or beans is about the size of your palm, a serving of grains, starches, fruits and veggies is about the size of your fist and, get this, a serving of fat is about the size of your thumb. Smaller than you thought, right?
Still, even though your hand size is largely proportional to your body size, you may need a bit more or less from your portions depending on individual factors including your genetics, muscle mass, physical activity levels and age, she says. Start with these guidelines and tweak as needed from there.
4. Purchase Single-Serving Foods
From "snack packs" of chips and cookies to individual pouches of oatmeal and almonds, pre-portioned foods, by giving you a new, healthier cue for how much you "should" eat, offer an easy way to cut down on portion sizes without feeling deprived.
If single-serving portions of foods you are prone to binge on are not available at your supermarket, portion things out as soon as you get home and before they go into the refrigerator or pantry. In one 2016 Obesity study of dieters, those who ate portion-controlled foods lost more weight and body fat than did those who dished out their own eats. (Interestingly though, both groups enjoyed their foods the same amount.)
Either way, avoid sitting down with an entire bag, tub or container of anything – as doing so rarely ends in anything other than overeating.
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