14 Dietitian-recommended ideas for portion control for weight loss

  • 3 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

When you want to trim down, implementing portion control for weight loss sounds like a no-brainer. But being surrounded by large food and beverage portions can set us up for over-consumption quickly. What to do? Here are my favorite portion control tips for weight loss to save an enormous amount of calories.

Portion sizes for weight loss

Big serving sizes get in the way of portion control for weight loss

It seems like everything is bigger these days. Big houses, big cars, big TVs, big couches, big hotels, and yes, big food portions! We have big burgers, big fries, big drinks, big muffins, big potatoes, big apples, big plates, and big bags of snacks!

Portion sizes have grown right along with our waistlines! Did you know that 20 years ago, a bagel was three inches in diameter and 140 calories? Today, a bagel is six inches in diameter and 350 calories, more than double the calories! A bottle of soda used to be 6.5 ounces and 85 calories. Now, a 20-ounce soda has 250 calories! Triple the calories! Many servings, particularly at restaurants, provide enough food for two or more people.

In many instances, bigger can be better, but it often creates a BIG problem in the nutrition world. Unless you are a teenage boy, large portions probably don't work in your favor. Not only can it lead to weight gain, but it can also cause heartburn and post-meal fatigue.

My favorite portion control tips for weight loss

  1. Rethink your drink. If you have a soda, get the 6-ounce can, or choose the small orange juice or regular-size specialty coffee. Save the big cups for water.

  2. Downsize plates, bowls, and cups. The smaller the container, the larger the serving appears. Do yourself a favor by using a smaller salad plate or saucer, a mini bowl, and a smaller drinking glass. It is amazing how this helps! I love finding small dishes and glasses. Antique marts feature dozens of finds. Save the big plates for salads and big glasses for water.

  3. Track your intake with MyNetDiary. Track everything that passes your lips. Studies show that the more you track your intake, the greater the weight loss!

  4. Get out the measuring cups, spoons, and food scale. We are masters at underestimating our portions. Weighing and measuring quantities can be a real eye-opener. You will find yourself quickly downsizing your portions and figuring out the amounts that fit into specific containers. Soon you will see how your favorite bowl holds one cup of pasta, or that cute little bowl is perfect for one-half cup of ice cream rather than the big bowl that holds three cups.

  5. Choose smaller fruit. Some supermarket giant apples equal five fruit servings, and you can find potatoes the size of your head! Go for the lunch-size apples, smaller bananas, smaller oranges, and smaller avocados.

  6. Avoid super-size quantities of foods at home. If you have only a few people in your home, try not to buy large food packages just because it is a better deal. Seeing a large quantity of food often results in eating more than you actually need. The one food item I do suggest buying in large bags is frozen vegetables. Go for it!

  7. Always pre-portion snacks. Never mindlessly eat snacks out of bags and boxes because you'll have no idea how much you've consumed. Instead, look at the container's serving size and pre-portion the snack into a bowl or plate, and savor it.

  8. Pack with portion-controlled containers. When packing your lunch, use snack-size bags and smaller containers for items like fruit and snacks. Look for portion-controlled snack bags. They help turn foods into reasonable portions. Use small one-ounce containers for salad dressing, nuts, seeds, etc

  9. Lose the "get your money's worth" attitude when dining out. If you eat out more than a few times a week, forget that notion, or the calories will do double the jeopardy. It is human nature to want to get value for the dollar, but it can be hazardous to the waistline.

  10. Research before you go out to eat. Use the MyNetDiary app to add up the calories in different meals to see what fits your calorie budget. Planning ahead prevents a hasty decision when ordering food with 10 people waiting behind you in line.

  11. Beware of up-sizing your order. Choose the smaller bag of chips instead of the "Big Grab," even when there is little price difference. Ordering fries or chips for just 99¢ more could add 300 or more calories to the meal!

  12. Split a meal when eating out. Usually, the "half" size meal more closely resembles a standard full serving, anyway. If you don't want to split or the restaurant charges a plate fee, ask for a box when served to save half for lunch the next day.

  13. Get the mini dessert instead of the large version. Often, the kiddie-size ice cream cone is plenty for an adult. Savor the smaller amount with reasonable calories, much closer to your calorie budget.

  14. Slow down and enjoy food. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it's full. Not sure about you, but I can eat a lot of food in 20 minutes. If you are a fast eater, try setting a timer for 20 minutes, and see if you can make your meal last that long. Slow it down and savor each mouthful. Put your fork down between bites, or use chopsticks to slow down the pace. Avoid starting the meal out ravenous because being super hungry sets you up for overeating.

I hope you try some of my favorite tips for eating smaller portions to lose weight while surrounded by big servings. Do you have strategies that work for you? Please share them in the MyNetDiary community forum or our Facebook page.

Additional reading:

Top recommended tips for portion control by dietitians

Measuring and estimating portion sizes

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Feb 12, 2021

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