9 Tips to Help You Control Your Portions

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9 Tips to Help You Control Your Portions

Although we feel lucky that we grew up in a healthy household where our Mom only served home-cooked, well-balanced, nutrient-rich meals made from scratch, some of our mom’s best intentions didn’t have equally as positive results. Because she wanted us to reap all of the benefits and nourishment from her food, our mom had a rule that we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we finished everything on our plates. As much as we are grateful that we had energy and nutrients to fuel our demanding schedules and help us to perform at our best, being accustomed to large portions and having the habit of finishing everything on our plate wasn’t going to work in our favor as adults. After all, not many adults can hold down a job and also have the time to run around all day long to burn off all of that food. 

Of course, we’re not the only ones who grew up as members of the clean-plate club. That’s why it’s not surprising that, as registered dietitians, one of the things that we get asked about the most is portion control. So not only have we learned what the research says works, we’ve also tried portion-control taming techniques on ourselves—and on our clients—as well. Here are four tips that help prevent overeating and impulsive eating. 

1. Never wait more than four to five hours between eating a small snack or a meal.

No matter who you are, it’s nearly impossible to keep portions in control when you’re hungry. If you tend to get caught up in activities and forget to eat, set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

2. Make sure your meals are a combination of protein and fiber.

Both keep blood sugar levels stable and aid in satiety to fight off that ravenous feeling that leads to overeating. Here are a few suggestions: 

Skinny Burrito Bowl (have 2 servings) 

Quinoa, Kale and Edamame Super Bowl (have 2 servings) 

Quick & Creamy Quinoa with Beans and Spinach 

Surf & Turf Tostadas 

3. Drink water throughout the day.

It’s all too easy to confuse feelings of thirst for hunger. You end up consuming too much food when you really just need to hydrate. If you find it a challenge to sip on water, give these water infusions a try: 

Citrus Strawberry Flush 

Orange-Lime Sparkling Flusher 

Raspberry Ginger & Lime Drink 

4. Fill up on fiber—especially veggies.

When you’re feeling full, you’re a lot less likely to overeat. Veggies are packed with fiber and are low in calories, so load up on them. Try any of these guilt-free recipes: 

Guilt-free Kale Chips 

Roasted Detoxifying Vegetables 

Easy Crunchy Braised Cabbage 

In addition to these four tips, give these portion-control strategies and see what works best for you. FYI—many of these work great for us! 

5. Cut your food into very small, bite-size pieces.

Do this with everything—salad, burritos, pasta, apples, cookies, etc. Researchers are trying to figure out exactly why this works, but they theorize that cutting up foods into multiple, bite-sized pieces may perceptually look like more food and, therefore, elicit greater satiation than a single-piece food portion.

6. Eat off salad plates.

They’re smaller than traditional plates and if you tend to overfill your plate, you’ll do less damage with a salad plate. 

7. Try eating off blue plates.

Researchers found that people eat less when they use blue plates. They theorize that perhaps the blue is a bit off-putting. 

8. Slow down.

It takes 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal that the body has received food. We all tend to eat quickly when we’re hungry and it’s easy to overeat before you even get close to 20 minutes.

9. Plan in advance what you will and will not eat.

For example, if you go to your meal knowing that you’re having a salad for an appetizer and eating only half of your entrée, you won’t overeat your main course simply because it’s in front of you. Instead, you’ll be conscious and have a plan as to when you’ll stop eating.

The Nutrition TwinsThe Nutrition Twins Contributor

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.

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