How to Portion Control? 12 Tips & Tricks - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » How to Portion Control? 12 Tips & Tricks

How to Portion Control? 12 Tips & Tricks

January 6, 2020

Key Takeaways

  1. Portion sizes, especially in American, have increased over the years. This has caused many people to become overweight or obese.
  2. Portion distortion happens more than you think, causing you to overeat and underestimate what you’re eating.
  3. These tips will help you gain control of your portions by knowing what the right portion size is, how to eat at restaurants, and ways to curb hunger while still feeling satisfied.

Sometimes, you can feel like you’re doing everything right but still can’t win.

You’re eating the right foods, staying away from processed, unhealthy junk, and getting in your exercise. But you still can’t shake those pounds to get to your goal weight.

If this sounds like you, maybe you need to start thinking about portion control. You may be overeating, even the right foods, which can make it hard for you to meet your goals.

Portion Control Happier Life

As the saying goes, “We eat first with our eyes.” Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless in doing so, you’re eating too many servings. Too much of a good thing can still be bad, especially when it comes to food.

Let’s take a look at some tips you can use to help with portion control and making sure you’re getting the right amount of food.

1. Learn Proper Portion Sizes

One of the easiest things to do is to learn how to properly estimate portion sizes. Initially, you can use kitchen tools like a scale, measuring spoons, and cups to weigh and measure for portion control.

Portion Sizes

This method works great when you’re at home, but isn’t always an option when you’re not. Instead, learn how to eyeball your portions to help you stay on track.

Here are two different methods you can use to gauge portions so you’re in control at each meal.

Using an object can help you better understand how much of a portion you should be getting for each food group:

  • Fruit = the size of a tennis ball
  • Vegetables = the size of a baseball
  • Carbohydrates = a hockey puck
  • Protein = a deck of cards
  • Fats = a pair of dice

You can also use your hands to help determine portion size. This is is a great way to get your kids to understand portion control no matter where they are. This portion control chart can be downloaded and used to give them a visual of proper portion size.

Also, make sure everyone in your family is getting the right amount of servings of each food group. For example, you should be getting four servings per day of fruit and five of vegetables.

2. Use Smaller Dishes

This tip may sound silly, but there is actually scientific data to back it up. Using visual cues, as mentioned above for portion size, can help you eat less and control your intake.

Different Size Plates Portion Control

In this experiment, 54 participants were sat at tables that had the same sized bowls. Some participants had undetected self-refilling bowls, while others did not. 

The subjects who had self-refilling bowls did not believe they had eaten more or feel fuller than the others. However, they actually consumed as much as 73% more than the others using normal bowls.

Here, 68 people were given bowls to serve pasta portions. Some received large bowls while the rest were given medium-sized bowls. The ones with large bowls served 77% more pasta than the others but also felt more satiated.

Pasta Portions Different

Even nutritional experts can fall prey to visual cues and portion distortion. When given different sized bowls and spoons to self-serve ice cream, here’s what happened:

  • Larger bowls = 31% more serving size
  • Larger spoon = 14.5% greater serving size

If you’re looking to lose weight, use smaller plates to help with portion control. You can even get portion control containers if needed to help maintain the right portion size. If weight gain is needed, use larger plates to fill up more. 

3. Be Smarter When Eating Out

Eating out at restaurants can really dampen your best efforts at portion control. Part of the reason Americans are getting bigger is that portions are as well.

It’s estimated that portions have increased as much as five times what they used to be. 

With greater portion size comes more

Entrees, sides, desserts, and drinks have increased in fast food and sit down restaurants in the last 30 years. According to the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), bagels have doubled in size and soda size has tripled in 20 years.

Fast Food Portion Control

Here are some tips to use the next time you eat out:

  • Order the smallest size possible, even consider a kid’s meal
  • Ask for a half portion at the restaurant, OR
  • Ask for a to-go box with your meal. When it comes, immediately put half away before you start eating. Now you have a meal for the next day and won’t feel the need to overeat what’s on your plate
  • Share a meal with someone
  • Fill up with a salad before the meal so you eat less when the entree comes
  • Order an appetizer and side rather than a full meal
  • Avoid buffets and all-you-can-eat restaurants

Eating out can be tricky, but with a little bit of extra forethought, you can keep portions in check. 

4. Don’t Forget the Soup and Salad

Regardless if you are eating at home or a restaurant, make sure you have a soup and/or salad before a meal. It will help you eat less of the actual meal and aid in portion control.

Soup or Salad

Regardless of sex or age, eating soup prior to a meal can help reduce the portion size of the entree. The type of soup didn’t seem to matter, though we suggest going for a healthier version rather than one high in calories.

Even something low density, like a brothy soup or salad, can help reduce subsequent meal intake. So, feel free to order the soup or salad, then if you still want the entree, take at least half home for later.

5. Be Strategic and Scope it Out

Sometimes eating at a buffet is unavoidable. If you find yourself staring down a buffet and worried about portion control, here’s a tip you can use.

Before putting anything on your plate, walk around to see what’s offered first. This way, you can see what options are available and choose the healthiest options.

Buffets and Portion Control

Consider this study on people who entered a buffet line at a health food conference. You may think it was only healthy options, but the study lists some unhealthy choices as well:

  • Bacon
  • Cheesy eggs
  • Fried potatoes

Of the 124 participants, 75% put the first foods they saw on the plate regardless of health consideration. The first three foods they saw comprised 66% of the foods on their plate.

With this information in mind, scanning the offerings first means you can head to the healthiest options first. That way, even if you do choose the first three foods, they are better than what you may have chosen.

6. Start with a Glass of Water

Thirty minutes prior to eating, drink a glass of water.

First, this will help you determine if you are truly hungry or not. If you are, then it will help you maintain portion control when you do eat.

In one study, seven young healthy males consumed 16 ounces of water before a meal while seven became the control. The males who preloaded felt increased fullness and satisfaction with less hunger.

Drinking Water Satiety

This tip still works well even when you’re older. Take this study of 48 middle-aged and older adults. Half the group consumed 16.9 ounces of water prior to a meal and the other half didn’t.

Those who did show a 44% greater decrease of weight over 12 weeks than the control.

Being well hydrated not only prevents dehydration, but it also helps with portion control, feeling more satisfied, and weight loss.

7. Choose Your Glass Wisely

When out with friends or celebrating a milestone, sometimes you just want to have a drink. If mixed drinks are your thing, you could be adding needless unwanted calories to your day.

To reduce the overall calories, ask to use a tall, thin glass rather than a wider, shorter one.

Without realizing, even experienced bartenders can overshoot their pour by as much as 20 percent in short glasses. Depending on what your drinking and how many you have, it can really add up.

Choosing Glass Size

A tall glass can also trick you into thinking that you’re having more than you are. This can help regulate the amount of alcohol, which will reduce bloating and hangovers. Filling the glass with ice before anything else will also reduce the amount of liquid in the glass.

So go ahead, have a night on the town. You’ll feel great the next day knowing you imbibed less than you normally do and keep your portions in check.

8. Take Your Time

The faster our daily lives, the quicker we usually eat our meals. Many people will eat in their car between tasks or sit in front of the TV for a meal or snack.

These habits can be one of the reasons your weight isn’t budging.

Eating in front of TV

If you’re a female reading this, frustrated with your diet plan and considering portion control, these studies may help.

Thirty women were divided up into two groups, one who ate quickly and the other slowly.

There were some surprising results:

  • The slower group increased their water intake and reduced their calorie intake
  • They still felt more satiated and overall more pleasant compared to the quick eating group

Watching TV can also affect the way we eat. In a study with all women, everyone ate more in front of the TV. It also took longer for them to feel full and no longer hungry in front of the TV than not. This is an example of mindless eating and shows that anyone can fall victim to it.

Along with taking more time to eat thoughtfully and purposefully, spend more time chewing before swallowing. It may sound strange, but there is proof that it can reduce the amount of food intake and increase satiety.

This meta-analysis of several different experiments examines the gut hormone response to satiety as the reason. As you masticate (chew) your food, saliva is created, sending signals to the gut that food is on the way.

Nuts Portion Control

Another tip: eat foods that require work. Shelling and peeling will help you slow down between bites. Great foods for this include:

  • Nuts
  • Oranges
  • Pomegranate
  • Mangoes
  • Shrimp 

Taking your time to chew a meal without interruption and distraction can help improve portion control.

9. Divide Up Meals and Snacks to Conquer Portion Control

If you prefer to buy larger containers or bulk sizes to save money or for convenience, you’re not alone. While this may be a great thing for your budget and time, it can be detrimental to your waistline.

Consider what you just learned about mindless eating. Think about the last time you sat in front of the TV with a big bag of chips or popcorn and zoned out.

You likely ate way too much and still didn’t feel very satiated, right?

Using a larger container can increase portions without being aware it’s happening. When given a larger container, participants in this study consumed 129% more candy than those with smaller bowls.

Meal Prep Portion Control

One way you can curb your appetite and help with portion control is to spend some time to divide up portions. Portion control during food production usually makes it more expensive.

Why pay the extra cost when you can do it yourself?

Use containers designed for portion control, so you don’t derail your diet plans. In the case of bulk meats or other items, bring them home from the grocery store and portion them. Portion out snacks in separate containers to be used later, or snack bags for lunch sides.

Taking a little extra time to make sure your portions are correct will help you out later on.

10. Create a Portion Friendly Zone

Easy access to food increases mindless snacking and more consumption, which is the opposite of portion control. To keep from reaching for more food, make your kitchen portion size friendly.

Smart Choices Refrigerator

Here are some ways to do it:

  • Remove all unhealthy snacks and replace them with healthy ones
    • Put a bowl of fruit and vegetables right on the counter, for easy grab and go
  • Tempting foods that you tend to overeat should be put out of reach, like a high shelf or the back of the fridge
    • Put already portioned foods right in front for easy access
  • Put healthy foods at eye level

Use these tips to keep healthy, appropriately portioned foods easier to find. This will help you stay on track, especially if there are other people in the house with different eating habits.

11. Use Vegetables (and Fruits) as Fillers

On any given day, you should be getting five servings of vegetables as part of a healthy diet. That could mean up to three cups per day or more, depending on your activity level.

If you struggle with portion control and getting all your servings in, this is a great way to do it. You can also do this with fruits to get in your four servings there too.

Healthy Snacks

Eating the rainbow in the proper amounts can help with satiety and control your calories, too.

To get more veggies in, think about ways you can add them as fillers into your meals. 

  • Swap mushrooms for red meat in some dishes
  • Add spinach, sprouts, and bell peppers to sandwiches, pasta, and stir-fry
  • Finely chop or puree veggies to incorporate in soups and sauces
  • Use vegetable broth in place of water in rice dishes and include veggies while it’s cooking for a more filling dish
  • Replace mayo with avocado 
  • Add as many vegetables (and fruits) into your salads
  • Add fruit to yogurt and top with some granola

When you really start thinking about it, adding vegetables to other dishes becomes easier. You have no reason not to get in all your servings of vegetables. 

This works for even the pickiest adults (and kids)!

12. Replace Dessert

If you usually end your night with dessert, portion control can sometimes be hard. Add in the fact that most desserts aren’t very healthy unless you’re just having fruit.

If you want something sweet but are reducing your calories to lose weight, here’s a tip. Curb your sweet tooth and help trim the pounds with some hot tea instead.

Hot Tea dessert alternative

There are so many different teas on the market now, you’re sure to find one to counter your cravings. Here are just a few you can try:

  • Herbal with fruit and/or spices
  • Peppermint
  • Green
  • Oolong
  • Roobios

Here’s some info to back this up. When 103 overweight and obese participants drank oolong tea for 6 weeks, it reduced their body weight and body fat content. Researches believe oolong tea may help fight obesity by improving lipid metabolism.

Peppermint has long been used to help with nausea and gastrointestinal upset. It can also help curb appetite. Consider grabbing a cup of peppermint tea to help ease your stomach or stave off hunger.

If you’re drinking it before bed though, try to get something that’s caffeine-free so it doesn’t interrupt your sleep. Chamomile tea is a great option before bedtime and has also been found to help with depression.

The Bottom Line

Knowing the proper portion size can help you lose weight and make better food choices. Whether you’re eating at home, a restaurant or on vacation, you can avoid overeating and mismanaging your food consumption.

Appetite Suppression
Old School Labs Vintage Burn™

To help with these portion control techniques, consider supplements that suppress appetite. Our Vintage Burn™ formula is specially created to promote fat burning and retain hard-earned muscle.

Use these tips to help curb cravings, reduce your appetite, and eat more mindfully. Whether you struggle with losing weight or even need to gain a few pounds, portion control can help. 

Do you tend to overeat if you don’t pay attention to your portion sizes? Which tips do you plan to implement in your life to help you reach your goals? Let us know in the comment section below.

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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  • Yes! This is so true and so important. Fats are especially important to measure carefully because they are calorie dense and easy to overshoot. I like to weigh my fats out by placing the container on the scale and then zeroing the scale out. Much more accurate way to measure fats

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