Portion control is crucial if you’re trying to lose pounds.
Maintaining the amount you eat is crucial whether you’re trying to drop pounds, consume a balanced diet or maintain a healthy weight, says Serena Poon, a nutritionist and celebrity chef based in Santa Monica, California. She’s also the founder of Just Add Water, a wellness line of super nutrient foods and supplements.
“Understanding portion sizes is a key to eating a balanced diet,” Poon says.
Depending on your age, gender and physical activity level, many nutrition experts recommend a daily macronutrient breakdown in this range:
— Carbohydrates: 45%-65%.
— Protein: 10%-35%.
— Fat: 20%-30%.
Think of your food as nourishment, not something you need to restrict.
The way you think about what you eat can help you maintain proper portion control, Poon says.
“I like to recommend that you think about your food as nourishment that will provide your body with the energy and fuel that it needs to support you through your day, rather than something that you have to restrict,” she says. “Express gratitude for the delicious food that is on your plate and watch your mindset about your food shift from lack to abundance.”
Fortunately, there are a number of specific, effective strategies for managing the amount of food you eat.
Here are six portion control hacks:
1. Have warm herbal tea or fresh water with lemon with each repast.
“For each meal, I make a 16-ounce cup of water with fresh lemon or mint tea,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, a nutritionist based in Washington, D.C. She’s the founder of Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, a nonprofit in the district. “There are several benefits to having one or both at mealtime.” The drinks help your stomach feel full, which will help with portion control. Consuming tea or water with fresh lemon also helps you stay hydrated, which is good for your skin and the rest of your body.
2. Use your palm to measure portions.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to use your palm to determine the portions on your plate, Stevenson says. “If you eat meat, make sure (your portion) is no larger than the inside palm of your hand,” she says. “Fill at least half your plate with fiber-rich plants and whole grains. Together they should be two palm-sized portions. This 2-to-1 ratio for meats ensures that your plant-forward portions of food act like a broom to your gut to sweep out any meaty guests that overstay their welcome.”
3. Eat slowly and mindfully.
Practicing mindful eating, savoring meals and stopping your food intake when you’re full are perhaps the best portion control methods, says Marysa Cardwell, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Salt Lake City and contributing dietitian to Lose It!, a free calorie-counting app. “When we eat more slowly, we can catch our feelings of fullness as they occur rather than after the fact,” Cardwell says. “Eating slowly and stopping when full means that we are eating enough to meet our individual nutrition needs but no more than we need at that moment.”
That means stopping when you are starting to feel full and not overeating just to finish what is left on your plate.
4. Watch your nutrients.
Aim for a plate that is half-filled with vegetables (or fruits) and ¼ each of protein and carbohydrates, as well as ½ tablespoon of fat. This mixture can help you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs, Cardwell says.
Here’s an example of a meal with these ratios:
— A large salad including 3 cups of spring mix.
— 3 ounces of grilled chicken.
— A half-cup of farro (a fiber-rich grain).
— 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette.
5. Use snack cups and small plates for between-meal eating.
To maintain healthy portion control while snacking, use snack cups and small plates. “I personally use a ramekin (a small bowl) when eating high-density snacks like nuts,” Cardwell says. Measuring out food beforehand helps her eat appropriate portions. Eating snacks like nuts or chips straight from a container or bag can lead to overeating.
6. At restaurants, ask for half of your meal to be boxed up.
Restaurant portions are typically larger than what you need in a meal, Cardwell says. “By boxing up half, you can eat the portion that you are left with mindfully,” she says. “If you are still hungry, you can always have some more. By not having all of the food right in front of your eyes, it becomes easier to listen to your fullness cues rather than eating with your eyes.”
To recap, here are six portion control tips:
— Have a warm herbal tea or water with lemon at each meal.
— Use your palm to measure portions.
— Eat slowly and mindfully.
— Watch your nutrients.
— Use snack cups and small plates for between-meal eating.
— At restaurants, ask for half of your meal to be boxed up.
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