7 Simple tips to combat portion distortion

  • 1 Minute Read
Donna P Feldman MS RDN is author of Food Wisdom for Women and "Feed Your Vegetarian Teen". She writes about food and nutrition at Radio Nutrition.

Yes, large portions of food lead to overeating. Now, what can we do about it?

Large portions of food

Proof that large portions of food lead to overeating

Studies show that portion size has a powerful and proportionate effect on the amount of food we consume. You might think it's all about fast food: super-sized soft drinks and French fries. Certainly, those are part of the problem, but not the whole problem. The big issue is this: we've been conditioned to expect supersized portions of everything.

Portion distortion is found everywhere

Research shows that we eat the food we are served. Result: we've been conditioned to eat right past being hungry or satisfied to being stuffed. If you buy an 800-plus calorie ice cream sandwich, are you going to throw half of it away once you feel satisfied?

People sometimes joke about the "See Food " diet: "I see food, I eat it." In fact, that may be the exact reason we have trouble controlling weight.

What can you do to combat portion distortion?

Here are simple things you can do in self-defense.

  1. Buy smaller dishware for home use. Use salad plates for your meals instead of giant dinner plates. Use small dessert bowls for cereal. Keep your glasses smaller, unless they are for water.
  2. At restaurants, ask for vegetable sides instead of chips or fries. Or ask that fries/chips be left off your plate, even if there are no substitutions.
  3. Steer clear of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants, or restaurants that offer bottomless anything, from bread to pasta.
  4. At fast food restaurants, avoid combo meals, even if they appear to be a better value. They're not a better calorie value for you. Just order a single burger or sandwich.
  5. Portion out food servings at home. If you open a 1 pound bag of chips and eat directly from the bag, how likely are you to keep eating until they're gone? Other package culprits: cookies, crackers, half gallons of ice cream, whole cakes or pies, value packages of doughnuts or pastries, half-gallon bottles of soft drinks, etc.
  6. Plate up your food in the kitchen instead of putting serving bowls on the table at meals. If the tempting food is sitting in front of you it's hard not to pick at it after you've cleaned your plate. That goes for pizza boxes and take-out containers.

Portion control can be a powerful diet strategy. It could result in the calorie deficit required for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Related content

14 Dietitian-recommended ideas for portion control for weight loss
Top recommended tips for portion control by dietitians

Content was reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES on April 27, 2022.

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Dining Out->Portion Size & Calories
Apr 29, 2022

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