Portion control can be a challenge for all of us particularly in today’s society where food is abundant. The average portion sizes have significantly increased over the last thirty years. Consider, for example, that in the 1980s the average coffee was sold in a Styrofoam cup and contained around 180 calories. Now it is not uncommon for people to buy the largest sized coffee, which contains three times as much milk, caffeine and calories. Without realising it a slight increase in portion size can make a significant impact to your overall food consumption and ultimately your waistline.
The trick to portion control is to slightly alter your portion sizes so that you do not feel hungry or deprived. This extra amount that you would otherwise eat but not miss has been coined the ‘mindless margin’ and is easy enough to leave off your plate without noticing the difference. Up to 20 per cent of the food on our plate can easily be left off without making a noticeable difference to our hunger levels.
Some general tips to keeping portion sizes down include:
- Eat from smaller plates and bowls. Consider eating your main meal from an entrée sized plate and soups and desserts from a small children’s-sized bowl rather than a large one. By eating from a smaller plate or bowl our brain is tricked into thinking we are eating the same amount of food because our meal still fills the entire plate/bowl.
- Fill at least half of your plate with salad or non-starchy vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, zucchini, eggplant, green beans).
- Since we tend to eat with our eyes and not with our stomachs the trick is to fill your plate with these lower-calorie foods so that your brain still sees a full plate.
- One quarter of our plate can be topped with starches including rice, potatoes, corn, carrots, pasta, quinoa and noodles.
- One quarter can be a protein source including meat, chicken, fish, tofu, lentils/beans.
- Drink from tall skinny glasses instead of short wide glasses as skinny glasses look fuller.
- Keep on hand small containers for portioning out snacks rather than eating from the original packaging.
- If making a large serving of a meal, portion out into individual servings and freeze for another day/meal.
- Water down fruit juice or, better still, avoid completely and choose whole fruit instead (but avoid extra natural sugar).
- Choose a salad option when dining out (dressing on the side).
- Choose pre-packaged party-sized servings of chocolate and sweets to have as your occasional snack.
- Drink a large glass of water 10–15 minutes before a meal. This can curb appetite.
- Think 20 per cent less overall food on your plate and 20 per cent more vegetables or salad on your plate.
Hopefully with these simple tips we may all find managing our portions a little easier.