Control the Crazy Portions

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.


  • 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.