Weight gain and obesity are considered as an epidemic, people are struggling to control their weight. Large serving sizes are believed to contribute to unwanted weight gain caused by overeating. Studies and research have proved that several factors can influence how much an individual eats. Individuals are more likely to eat almost all of the food items they serve themselves. Hence, controlling serving sizes could help prevent overeating and weight gain.
Here are 6 tips to control and measure your portion sizes, while at home and on the go.
1. Make use of smaller dishes:
Studies suggest that sizes of spoons, glasses and plates can unconsciously be a factor which would influence how much food an individual eats. For instance, using plates of a large size could make the food appear lesser in quantity, which often leads to overeating. In a study, individuals utilising a large plate ate 77 percent more pasta than those using a medium-sized plate. In another situation, nutritional experts served themselves 31 percent more ice cream when they were provided larger bowls and 14.5 percent more when they were provided larger serving spoons. Additionally, most of the people who ate more due to larger size of the dishes were completely unaware of the change in their portion size.
2. Utilize your plate as a portion guide:
If weighing or measuring food items doesn’t seem appealing, try using your bowl or plate as a portion control guide. This could help you identify the optimal macronutrient ratio for a meal which would be well-balanced.
A rough guide to a well-balanced meal is:
• Salad or vegetables: Half a plate.
• High-quality protein: Quarter of a plate, and this includes poultry, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, tofu and pulses.
• Complex carbs: Quarter of a plate like starchy vegetables and whole grains.
• High-fat foods: Half a tablespoon, about 7 grams, which includes butter, cheese and oil.
The above guide is just a rough guide, as everyone has different dietary needs. For instance, the ones who are more physically active often require more amount of food to keep themselves fit. As salad and vegetables are generally low in calories but high in fibre and other nutrients, filling up your diet with these food items might help you avoid overeating calorie-dense foods. If you wish for extra guidance, there are some manufacturers who sell portion-control plates.
3. Use your hands as a serving guide:
Another way to measure the appropriate portion size of your food without any measuring tools is by simply making the use of your hands. As your hands generally correspond to the size of your body, bigger people who need more amount of food, naturally have larger hands.
Here is another rough guide for each meal:
- High-protein foods: Two palm-sized servings for men and one palm-sized portion for women, such as fish, meat, poultry and beans.
- Salads and other vegetables: Two fist-sized portions for men and one fist-sized portion for women.
- High-carb foods: Two cupped-hand portions for men and one for women, such as starchy vegetables and whole grains.
- High-fat foods: Two thumb-sized portions for men and one for women, such as oils, nuts and butter.
4. Ask for a children’s dish while eating out:
Hotels and restaurants are considered notorious for serving large portions of food. Instead, restaurant serving sizes on average, are about 2.5 times greater than the standard serving sizes and up to eight times larger. If you are eating in a restaurant, you may ask for a children’s dish or a half portion. This would save you from consuming a lot of calories and help prevent weight gain. In fact, you can even share a meal with someone or order a starter and side instead of any main dish. Other tips can be ordering vegetables or salads, asking for dressings and sauces to be served separately and avoiding all-you-can-eat restaurants where it’s easy to overeat and overindulge.
5. Drink a glass of water before every meal:
Drinking water up to 30 minutes prior to a meal would naturally aid portion control. Drinking enough water would make you feel less hungry. Being hydrated throughout the day even helps you differentiate between thirst and hunger. A study in older and middle-aged adults observed that drinking 17 ounces or about 500 ml of water prior to each meal lead to a 44 percent decline in weight in over 12 weeks, most likely due to reduction in food intake. Similarly, when obese and overweight older adults drank 17 ounces of water 30 minutes prior to a meal, they consumed 13 percent lesser calories without trying to make any modifications. On the other hand, in another study which focused on young normal-weight men, who drank similar quantity of water prior to a meal, experienced greater feelings of fullness and reduced food intake. Hence, having a glass of water prior to every meal could help prevent obesity and aid portion control.
6. Know the suitable serving size:
Studies and research indicate that we cannot always rely on our own judgment regarding appropriate portion sizes. This is because there are several factors affecting portion control. It might be meaningful to invest in measuring cup or scale to weigh food and assess your intake precisely. Going through food labels even increases awareness of proper portions.
Here are some of the examples:
• Cooked pasta or rice: Half a cup, about 75 and 100 grams, respectively.
• Salad and vegetables: About 1-2 cups or 150–300 grams.
• Breakfast cereal: 1 cup or about 40 grams.
• Cooked beans: Half a cup or about 90 grams.
• Nut butter: 2 tablespoons, or say, 16 grams.
• Cooked meats: 85 grams or 3 ounces only.
You don’t necessarily have to measure your food. Doing so, however, might be helpful for a short period to increase awareness of what an appropriate portion size looks like. After some time, you might not need to measure your meals every time.
The bottom line
Weight gain can start with consuming large portion sizes. There are, however, several practical steps you could take to control portions, as discussed above. These easy and simple modifications have been proven successful in minimising portions without compromising on feelings or taste of fullness. For instance, monitoring and measuring your food, using smaller dishes, drinking enough water before any meal and eating slowly may reduce your risk of obesity and overeating. At the end of the day, portion control is considered as a quick fix which improves your quality of life and might prevent several diseases.