Nutrition Articles

Control the Crazy Portions

Staring into the Bottomless Plate

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Question: Is it possible to eat meals consisting entirely of healthy foods, such as carrots, fish, apples and whole wheat bread, and continue to gain weight?
Answer: Yes, because you can still eat too much, even if everything is good for you.

Portions have grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. Not surprisingly, our weight has followed right along with it. A huge part of the problem is that people tend to eat what’s in front of them, whether they’re hungry or not. To fight this problem, it’s important to find reasons to cut down on what you put on your plate in the first place.

Portion size is a major contributor to weight problems, whether you eat out or at home. Restaurants serve huge plates of food, consisting of several servings per person, making it easy to go way past the recommended amount per meal.

It does not stop when you eat at home. It’s been estimated that portion sizes in the past 20 years have increased in restaurants and at home by as much as 50%. Today, the average person eats 200 more calories each day than in the 1970s. Many store bought cookies are now more than 7 times bigger than the recommended serving size. Did you know that a typical dinner plate holds three servings of spaghetti, not just one? When you fill up your entire plate with food, you’re likely eating more than you bargained for.

On the bright side, portion size is something you can change, without getting rid of your favorite foods. All it takes is a few simple habits to control how much you eat during a sitting. Here are a few tips you can use when dining in or out:

  • Order an appetizer as an entree (main dish). Remember to stay away from fried foods though.
  • Split an entree with another person.
  • Order from the lunch menu at dinnertime.
  • Leftovers are okay. Feel free to wrap up half your meal to go
  • Order smaller sizes such as a half-order of pasta or a "petite" cut of meat. Even so, portions may still be hefty. It's not unusual for a "smaller" portion of meat to be an 8-ounce serving.
  • In fast-food restaurants avoid "extra value" or "super size" meals, unless you split it with a friend. A regular small hamburger is usually equivalent to one serving of meat and two servings of grain.

AT HOME


  • Set the table with smaller plates. Since you can’t fit as many servings on your plate, filling the whole plate is no big deal. Smaller dishes also make the food look bigger, which has a proven effect on your level of hunger.
  • Skip seconds and get out the Tupperware.
  • Divide up single serving portions ahead of time, in sealable bags or containers.
  • Read the packaging! Follow the recommended serving size and eat only one.
  • Eat foods that curb hunger: oranges, apples, oatmeal, fish, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta.

Click here to see a guide for knowing your portions.


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Member Comments

  • Good article. Thank you.
  • Portion control is everything!!
  • 1BOBBBI_60
    This is a great article and I changed my life a few months ago and my mom and I,
    have learned to eat off of a smaller plate and that helped us with our portion control,
    and so far were still doing our portions smaller plate and we have lost and we are very,
    happy what we have learnt so far and will continue till the end of the road for us.
    I have lost-35 lbs. and 39.5 inches in 5 months.

    Determination is what it takes.
  • Great article and info. Thanks.
  • I been thinking of using the child's plate at least they are small and you will not over eat with that
  • I bought new plates and bowls through exchanging a gift I got from Xmas. They are perfect for portion control!
    Thank you food channel dishes.
  • I HAVE A SET OF NEW DISHES I GOT LAST YEAR AND MY PLATES HAVE BEEN USED ABOUT TWO TIMES . I ALWAYS USE THE SAUCER SO I WILL EAT LESS.

    I DO THINK IF ONE OVER EATS A LONG TIME YOUR TUMMY WILL JUST STOP

    GIVING YOU SIGNALS IT IS FULL. IT SEEMS TO LOSE THAT ABILITY ONCE YOU

    OVEREAT FOR AWHILE . PROBABLY ONLY WAY TO GET THAT AGAIN IS TO EAT

    LESS FOR AWHILE ALSO. GOT SAY EACH DAY FOOD IS NOT A REWARD FOOD IS

    NOT A REWARD. EATING IS NOT A RECREATION.
  • I have been on spark for a few months now and I haven't got portion control down yet. Still working on it, but not giving up!! Bellamagoo78 has a great ideal and I will use it. The scales I have seen at the store are very exspensive, but I am worth the investment!!
  • FATPUP is AWESOME! I'm going to take a leaf out of her book on this one.
  • Follow the No S Diet, and you eliminate problems with portion control, without measuring, weighing, tracking, obsessing, and generally increasing food addiction and food OCD. What a HUGE time & calorie saver, and easy way to simplify life in the food department!! See the SparkTeam for more information.
  • I have several measuring cups, a digital scale and I use them always. Another thing I have it several plastic plate containers that have 3 sections
  • BELLAMAGOO78
    Another trick I've started doing to help me with portion control is when I cook a recipe and it says "serves 4" - I either 1/2 the recipe (as I am single and live alone) or if I make the full recipe, I dish up 4 equal portions and refridgerate the extras for lunches/dinners later in the week.
  • portion control is so hard-- When I add up my calories for the day, I know I'm really over a bit, due to portions being larger --I try to allow for that in the day--
  • A couple of years ago, my S.O. and I were picking out dinnerware to put on the wedding registry, and we literally could not find any sets at Target where the dinner plates weren't huge. We finally just picked a set with 11" dinner plates and only use the dinner plates as serving plates. Even the 9" salad plates are kind of large, since they're the rimless type where they just go up at the edge instead of having that 1/2" rim where food shouldn't go.

    Now I'm trying to implement a hint I heard elsewhere, eat in order of importance (to a healthy diet). That is, eat the non-starchy veggies first (like starting with a salad, easy on the dressing), then lean protein, then starchy veggies or fruit, then finally allow yourself to munch on the bread and rich stuff. It's a way of ensuring that you get plenty of vitamins and protein and don't just fill up on empty calories at meals.
  • PATTI_LARSON
    Wow! Great article with excellent advice. I'm very bad with portion control. I have no control which is why I'm here! I really appreciate these articles... I'm one of those that has to constantly be reminded of portion size. Thank you.

About The Author

Zach Van Hart Zach Van Hart
Zach is a journalist who regularly covers health and exercise topics.