It’s a common misconception that the best way to lose weight is cardio on cardio on cardio.
In actuality, a major part of losing weight and maintaining a healthy body composition is controlling portions.
When you work out more frequently, portion size becomes even more important as the temptation to eat more increases after exercise.
Are Your Portion Sizes Too Big? (For Most, The Answer’s Yes)
Portion control is simple: you control how much you eat for meals and snacks (and don’t forget those pesky liquid calories).
If you want to stay in shape or lose weight, you’ve got to burn more calories than you consume.
Portion control is just as important as regular cardio and weightlifting, if not more important, to reach your weight loss goals.
Dieting With Portion Control
You could starve yourself on fad diets like Beyonce’s infamous lemonade and cayenne pepper diet, the every-meal cabbage soup diet, or so-called cleanses.
You could take dangerous diet pills that mess with your digestive system, decrease nutrient absorption, and destroy your metabolism. Or you could diet the healthy way with portion control.
It’s important to remember that adopting portion control isn’t equal to starving yourself or depriving yourself of enjoyment from eating.
Dieting with portion control is about self-control in order to develop healthy eating habits.
Here are a few tips to get you started and to avoid fast burnout and next-week binges.
1. Measure Your Food
Maybe it sounds a little extreme to break out the measuring cups, but it’s a good way to get started and to realize just how much you’re eating.
After a week or so, you’ll be able to eyeball it.
2. Keep A Food Diary
This is another tip that is great for the beginning stages but doesn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) become a long-term habit.
We don’t want you to obsess over what you eat - we just want you to become more mindful of your portion sizes.
For the first week or so, try using a food diary to keep yourself accountable and to make sure you’re sticking to your limits on your caloric intake.
Check out a handy dandy calculator to help you calculate what your intake should be here.
3. Shop Smart
There’s a reason why candy is stacked high at the checkout counter: it’s because when you’re stuck waiting in line, you’re much more likely to buy some.
Go to the grocery store with a list and a plan, and stick to it. Don’t even let yourself glance at or walk down junk food aisles.
4. Start With Water And Keep On Drinking
It makes perfect sense: drink a large glass of water before eating, and you’ll literally become fuller faster. Drink throughout the day as well.
Often, dehydration masks itself as hunger when all you really need is some refreshing H2O.
5. Love On That Soup And Salad
Soup and salad are ideal for the portion control diet. This is because vegetable soups are low in calories and filling. They also make you slow down, as you’re going spoonful by spoonful.
Salads are super low-cal. The portion control diet doesn’t mean that your plate has to be sparse. You can pile on the salad.
Just make sure to avoid overly creamy or sodium-packed soups and to go light on the salad dressing.
6. Wear A Belt
No one wants to move their belt a notch after a meal.
Wearing a belt will help you avoid overeating because your belly can only stretch so much before you become uncomfortable.
7. Use Small Plates
Heck, you can even use smaller utensils. You’re essentially playing a little trick on yourself.
It looks like you’re eating a lot more when your plate’s full, and it also helps you measure out healthier portions.
Never, ever, eat straight from the box.
8. Put That Fork Down!
It’s an easy little trick: set your utensil down between bites instead of shoveling it down.
9. Eat Mindfully
These days, mindfulness is all the rage. Put simply, mindfulness is paying attention and living in the present.
Try out new recipes and then really savor your meal. Let the food sit on your tongue, chew it thoroughly, and enjoy the variety of tastes.
This will help you eat slower so you’ll notice that feeling of fullness before you’ve overeaten.
10. Make Meals A Special Occasion
Don’t eat standing up at the counter, and definitely don’t eat while working or watching TV. These situations will cause you to eat faster and much more than you ordinarily would.
Instead, sit down for your meal at a designated time. Burn some candles or use a nice placemat.
Eat with a friend and focus on conversation. Challenge yourself to spend at least thirty minutes to an hour at the table.
11. Consider A Cheat Meal
The jury’s out on cheat meals. Some nutritionists and fitness experts swear against them, while others insist you need a little wiggle room. We tend to side with those in favor of a little wiggle room.
Being on a diet shouldn’t be miserable, and it should be a lifestyle choice you can keep up long-term. Because of this, every once in a while, let yourself get dessert.
Eat something you’ve been craving. There’s nothing wrong with spoiling yourself from time to time, and it’s much better than altogether quitting your diet.
How to Portion Control
These 11 tips are great when it comes to adopting the portion control diet, but they’re nothing without number 12: Know what portion sizes are.
Restaurants often serve portion sizes that are 3 to 4 times larger than the portions you should be eating - if not bigger.
You'll want to adapt your portion sizes to your diet, for example if you're doing paleo and eating a lot of veggies, you'll need bigger portions to make up for the lower calorie food to ensure you're eating enough.
We live in a culture where so often bigger is better, but this isn’t so when you’re looking to eat healthy.
Instead of attempting to memorize how much a cup or an ounce or a tablespoon is with no reference, hold up your hand.
The Handy Guide To Portion Size
- Fruits And Vegetables
- Grain Products
- Milk And Dairy
- Meat And Proteins
Fruits And Vegetables
On the portion control diet, fruits and vegetables are the most important food group as they’re nutrient-rich and low in calories.
Think up to 10 servings.
Here’s a quick guide to portion size:
- ½ fist = 1 portion of vegetables, fruit, or 100% fruit juice
- 1 fist = 1 portion of leafy vegetables or whole fruit
Grain products are tricky because you want to cut down on the carbs, but you also want a healthy amount of bulking to feel full and digest well.
Go for 6 or less servings.
- Size of hand = 1 portion of bread, ½ a bagel, or cold cereal
- ½ fist = 1 portion of rice or pasta
Milk And Dairy
We sure do love cheese, but typically we eat way more of it than what we need when we hit that cheese plate!
You only need about 3 servings of dairy a day, and the portions are probably smaller than what you’d guess.
Eggs are always easy to portion out, no scales needed.
- 1 fist = 1 portion of milk or yogurt
- 2 thumbs = 1 portion of cheese
Meat And Proteins
- Palm of hand = 1 portion of meat, poultry, or fish
- 1 fist = 1 portion of legumes
- 1 cupped hand = 1 portion of nuts
- 2 thumbs = 1 portion of peanut butter
This is the danger zone, where we tend to go way over on portion size. Your thumb is your friend.
- 1 thumb = 1 portion of butter, margarine, oil, or mayonnaise
Portion Control Aids
Hopefully after reading this, portioning doesn’t seem so complicated. If you want to make your life even easier, though, we’ve got you covered.
There are numerous portion control products like plates and containers that do the measuring for you.
Here are two of our favorites.
Meal Measure Portion Control Tool
The Meal Measure Portion Control Tool is great because it measures your food out directly onto your plate. Here’s why we love it:
- It doesn’t require you to eat out of separate dishes for each food group
- Each section is clearly labeled fruit, vegetable, starch, or protein
- Top of each section measures 1 cup with a groove halfway for ½ cup
- Easy to clean and dishwasher-safe
With the Meal Measure Portion Control Tool, you don’t have to carry around a bunch of measuring cups or eat from a child-size plate that’s divided up awkwardly.
Just place the tool on your plate, fill it in with your food, and then remove it and eat.
The Yumbox is absolutely ideal for portion control on the go and packed lunches.
Like the Meal Measure Portion Control Tool, it clearly indicates what foods go where with the proper portion size.
Here’s why we love it:
- The tray inside Yumbox is perfect for portion control and also encourages variety in your diet with the option for 4 or 6 compartments
- Its leak-proof single lid is mess-free and prevents your food from mingling or spilling over
- There’s no need for Ziplock bags or a handful of containers anymore
- It’s made of all food safe materials, BPA- and phthalates-free
- Great for all ages – you and your kids can eat on the go
So Why Go For Portion Control?
The portion control diet isn’t a diet in the pop cultural sense of the term. When you think of a diet, you probably think of discomfort, denying yourself the things you enjoy, and stepping on the scale three times a day praying for change that’s just not coming.
People fail again and again at these types of diets because they’re depriving and punishing themselves instead of taking care of themselves. Extreme diets and insanity workout routines don’t work. What does work is a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits.
This is what we mean by a portion control diet. It’s a diet in the sense that you are mindful of what you’re eating, how often, and how much. It’s a diet you won’t fail at because it’s about making healthy decisions and forming healthy habits, not deprivation.
With regular exercise, the portion control diet results in weight loss due to a reduction in your caloric intake. When you’re burning more calories than you consume, you lose weight. It’s that simple.
Don’t let flashy advertisements and before-and-after photos trick you into doing something dramatic or dangerous with your diet. Go the healthy route with portion control.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to lose weight, maintain weight, or just become healthier overall, paying attention to portion control will improve your physical well-being.
It’s one of the simplest ways to eat healthier, and if you stick to it, soon it will come naturally.