Staying inside during the current pandemic can take a toll on our physical health. With our fridges being within arms reach, it is very easy to indulge and pile on the pounds. Obesity is a growing epidemic, as more people than ever are struggling to control their weight. This is mainly due to how much you eat and increased portion sizes (1). Controlling portion sizes can help prevent overindulging (2).
Here are 6 tips to measure and control portion sizes – both for now and beyond.
1. Start all meals with a glass of water
Drinking a glass of water up to 30 minutes before a meal can naturally aid portion control and overeating, as it makes you feel less hungry (3).
2. Use smaller plates
Several studies have suggested that sizes of plates, bowls, spoons, and cups can unconsciously influence how much food someone eats (4). For instance, using large plates can make the food portions appear smaller, which may lead to overeating (5), however, most people feel just as full having eaten from a smaller dish as from a large one. Therefore, swapping your usual plate, bowl, or serving cutlery for a smaller alternative can reduce the helping of food and prevent overeating.
3. Use your plate as a portion control guide
Using your plate as a guide can help you check your total food intake and help you determine the optimal macronutrient ratio for your diet. You can divide your plate into sections based on different food groups.
A rough guide for each meal is; 1/2 plate of veg or salad, 1/4 of a plate of protein, 1/4 of carbs, and 1 tsp for fats (note – people who regularly exercise will require more food). As vegetables are naturally low in calories but high in fiber and other nutrients, filling up on these may help you avoid overeating calorie-dense foods.
4. Slow down when eating
Eating quickly makes you less aware of getting full, and as a result, could cause you to overeat. Your brain can take around 20 minutes to register that you are full after eating (6), so slowing down whilst eating can reduce your total intake.
There have been several studies that suggest that slowing down has significant effects on decreased food intake and weight loss. One study in healthy women noted that eating slowly led to greater feelings of fullness and a decrease in food intake compared to eating quickly (7). Furthermore, other studies found that eating while distracted boosted the likelihood of overeating (8). Chewing more and avoiding electrical devices (such as TV and smartphones) whilst eating is recommended.
5. Avoid eating food straight from the container
This uses the same ideology to using smaller plates. Food served from large containers or big packages encourage overeating and reduced awareness of portion sizes. This is especially true for snacks. There has been key evidence to suggest that people tend to eat more out of large packages than small ones (9), but when consuming food in smaller sized bowls or packaging, people consumed much fewer grams of food (10).
To overcome this, rather than eating snacks from the original packaging, pour some into a small bowl to prevent eating more than you need. This rule can also apply to bulk portions of family meals. Rather than serving food directly from the stove, re-portion it onto plates before serving. Doing so will help prevent overfilling your plate and discourage returning for seconds.
6. When eating out, adjust your portion sizes
Restaurant serving sizes are, on average, about 2.5 times larger than standard serving sizes, making it harder to manage your food intake. If you are eating out, you can always ask for a half portion, share a meal with someone, or order a starter and side instead of the main dish. This will save you a lot of calories and help prevent overeating.
Other tips include ordering a side salad or vegetables, and avoiding buffet-style, all-you-can-eat restaurants where it’s very easy to overindulge.
The bottom line
It is so important now more than ever during this current pandemic that we maintain our overall health and practice healthy habits. In regards to weight maintenance, portion control has proven to be a quick fix that improves the quality of life and may prevent binging. Following these simple changes will enable you to effectively reduce your portions without compromising on taste or feelings of fullness.