When you first hear of the weight loss principle, you think of how simple it sounds: “Consume fewer calories than you burn”. But the concept can be deceiving, especially when it comes down to limiting the calories you consume. Nobody wants to cut down on their favorite dish or drink, so, it becomes a dilemma of whether you want to lose pounds or give up on your favorite meals.
Due to this reason, weight-loss experts have introduced a concept called portion control. It allows you to still enjoy your favorite foods while you are on your weight loss journey.
Here is everything you should know about portion control for weight loss.
Does Portion Control Work For Weight Loss?
Yes, it does. It is a concept that comprises choosing a healthy amount of all foods. The advantage of practicing portion control is limiting the food ratios to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
You also benefit from consuming enough food to get the essential nutrients you need to keep your body functioning optimally. Moreover, it is important to note the difference between a portion and a serving.
A portion refers to the amount of food you put on your plate, while a serving is a specific amount of food, usually as recommended by the manufacturer (4). So, when you are practicing portion control, you are advised to consume the recommended serving sizes.
How To Use Portion Control For Weight Loss At Home?
Contrary to what most people think, practicing portion control at home can be overwhelming. Wanting to munch on your favorite snacks or food or take an extra bite or two can be very tempting.
But it would help if you fought this urge to sustain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
- Serve your food on small plates.
- Serve your food and snacks on plates or small containers instead of eating them from the package.
- Have your meals or snacks on the dining table instead of when watching TV, such distractions can lead to overeating.
- Keep the excess food away to avoid the urge of having extra bites.
- Store tempting foods, especially ice cream or cookies, away, such as, on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Meanwhile, bring healthy food options like celery sticks and Greek yogurt to the front eye level.
- Do not serve platters of food on the table because you are likely to increase the food servings.
The Recommended Serving Sizes For Different Foods
Size matters in your diet. The only way you can lose weight and keep it off is by limiting your servings to maintain and sustain a calorie deficit. Remember, the goal is to burn more calories than we consume, which is the basic weight loss principle.
Every dieting guide online has different techniques to measure different food groups. For example, some suggest measuring cups, tablespoons, or ounces to take food measurements before preparing it.
All these guides can be confusing and discouraging, especially when eating in. So instead of all these measuring guides, WebMD has suggested simple techniques to determine the right portion sizes (3).
Most of our foods resemble everyday objects, for example, a medium-sized bell pepper resembles a baseball. In light of this, WebMD has come up with an easy method of determining the correct food servings for dieters.
They are as follows (3):
Most fruits are about the size of a tennis ball. For example, a small apple or a medium orange. So, experts suggest you consume one fruit serving; about the size of your fist or a tennis ball, which roughly equals a cup (3).
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You need protein, but often we consume portion sizes that are excessive. If you take in more protein than you need, your body will burn it for energy or store that energy as fat.
WebMD suggests consuming meat or poultry in sizes resembling your palm (minus the fingers) or that of a deck of cards (3). For example, a piece of cooked skinless chicken equivalent to a deck of cards provides roughly 110 calories (4). A portion of fish should be around the size of a checkbook (or perhaps a smartphone would be a better modern example).
For cheese, experts suggest consuming a serving size of your thumb or a pair of dice (3).
The recommended serving of most carbs is the size of a hockey puck (4). So, if you are thinking of having a bagel, let its size be equivalent to a hockey puck (4). Similarly, if pasta is your thing, consume a serving size equal to one scoop of ice cream (3).
Potatoes are also classified under carbs, which have a bad rap among many dieters. Although some choose to avoid carbs consumption, experts suggest you consume them in the required servings as you still need these macronutrients for energy. So, for potatoes, you are advised to consume a serving equating to the size of a computer mouse (3).
Before you even add snacks to your diet plan, it would be best to consult on the best weight loss snacks. Remember that many are high in calories, added sugar, and unhealthy fats, which hinder weight loss.
If your dietitian gives you the green light to consume snacks like pretzels, remember to consume them in moderation. The recommended serving is equivalent to a cupped handful (3).
No need to cut off steamed rice from your weight loss diet plan. Instead, you can have it with beef stew, chicken, or vegetables but in a limited amount. WebMD suggests consuming one serving size equivalent to a cupcake wrapper (3). For added fiber, you can choose brown rice instead of white.
Ways To Avoid Portion Pitfalls When Dining Out
It is hard to account for your food portions when dining out because of the large servings of most restaurants. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that most restaurants serve more portions than one person needs in one setting (1).
Thus, it has proposed several techniques to avoid unnecessary weight gain and help you maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.
These techniques include (1):
- Split the entrée with your friend.
- Ask the server for a to-go box and wrap half of your meal before eating it.
- Share dessert.
- Ask for smaller portions or half the meal.
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How To Portion Control For Weight Loss At The Supermarket?
You will find yourself at the supermarket looking to satisfy your cravings or grab a snack. For most, the idea of portion control goes out the window immediately when they step foot in the supermarket.
You must remember to practice portion control for every food, including your snacks.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling into a portion control pitfall when at the supermarket (4):
- Regulate the amount of mini-sized snacks that you pick. Most people consume more calories than expected because of eating too many of these snacks. Some of the snacks packed this way are pretzels, small crackers, and cookies.
- Read labels. The CDC reveals that labels can determine the serving size of different foods and give you a rough idea of the number of calories you are consuming. For example, one serving size of ice cream has the label of a 2/3 cup, while a 12 or 20-ounce soda bottle has a label of one serving (2). These days, most labels are more precise on the number of calories expected in each serving.
- Go for foods or snacks packaged in individual serving sizes. This way, you will know the number of calories you are consuming.
- Choose small packages instead of cartons. This approach will save you unnecessary calories.
The Bottom Line
Portion control promotes weight loss by limiting your food portions to specific servings. It is an expert-approved technique to encourage weight loss and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, experts have developed easy methods to determine serving sizes for dieters.
They are easy to remember and master as they equate foods to natural objects, such as a tennis ball. However, it would be best to consult with your nutritionist before making any dietary changes or if you need guidance for portion control for weight loss.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight (2021, cdc.gov)
- Learn How the Nutrition Facts Label Can Help You Improve Your Health (2021, cdc.gov)
- Portion Size and Weight Loss (2021, webmd.com)
- Slide show: Portion control for weight loss (2020, mayoclinic.org)