When you are trying to lose weight, the amount of food you eat, as well as the type, can make a huge difference to the amount of calories you are consuming. Even if you are choosing healthy, low fat foods, if you eat large portions and more calories than you are burning off, you will not lose weight.
In general, the amount of food we eat is steadily increasing, with numerous reports showing the increase in the size of the average restaurant meals, snack and packaged foods over time. Studies have also shown that when faced with larger portions, people tend to eat more, and thus consume more calories, leading to weight gain. Worryingly, one study even suggested that many people may not even notice when their portion sizes increase, and thus are unconsciously increasing their calorie intake.
In order to lose weight, it is essential to choose healthy, low fat calorie foods, but it is also very important to be aware of portion sizes, which can be made easier by using the following tips.
Use small plates
Studies have suggested that people who eat off a smaller plate eat less food. Filling a smaller plate requires far less food, so visually, the same portion of food looks far larger and more satisfying on a smaller plate.
There is then less incentive to add more food to fill the plate. Investing in smaller dishes can be a great way to cut down your portion sizes without really noticing.
Buy smaller packets
In the current difficult economical times, it is tempting to bulk buy larger tins, packets and bags of foods. This is fine for staple foods that are used to make other dishes and that last well, but for snack foods it can be detrimental to your diet.
When you have a large bag of biscuits in the cupboard there is always the temptation to eat more than if you have a small packet that has to last you until your next shopping trip. Snack foods also often go stale when opened, so there is a tendency to try to finish them off before they go bad, which is never going to be good for your diet.
Fun size packets of potato chips, chocolate bars and nut packs are an excellent way to portion control and prevent overeating. It is a lot easier to stop after a small chocolate bar, if eating more requires unwrapping a new bar, whereas if you sit down with a family block, it is far too easy to break off just a few squares more.
Measure serves sizes
It is incredibly easy to underestimate the quantity of food you are actually eating. To eliminate this, using a scale, measuring cups or a visual reference can be a great way to keep your portions under control.
Foods like pasta, rice, breakfast cereals or even meat are very easy to overeat and often served in large portions. A quick and easy way to estimate how much meat you should be eating at a meal for example, is that a serve should be no bigger in size or thickness than a pack of playing cards.
Be aware of the calories in certain serve sizes of food, so you know how much you want to eat.
By reading the labels on packaging foods, it is possible to get an idea of what is considered a serve size and how many calories and other nutrients are in the serve. This is a good starting point to go from when measuring food.
The size of products can actually be quite misleading when reading the nutritional information, for example, an individual yogurt, which most people would eat in its entirety without a thought, is often considered to be two serves on the nutritional information panel. Thus double the calories are actually being consumed than is written on the label.
Wait before going back for seconds
Digestion of food takes time, and there is a delay of about 20 minutes between when we stop eating and when our body registers that we are full. It is much better to start with a small serve, wait after you finish this and then go back for more if you are still hungry, than eating more than you need to begin with.
Fill up plates with low calorie foods
To control the portion sizes of higher calories components of a meal, it can be helpful to fill up your plate with lower calories options, such as salads and vegetables. This not only gives the visual impression of a full plate and a large serve of food, but also increases vegetable consumption.
Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables, which provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals essential for good health.
Don’t trust your will power.
Be aware of your own limitations as far as eating goes. For most people, sitting down in front of the TV with a large bag of chips, a family block of chocolate or a packet of cookies is a recipe for disaster, and the quickest way to polish off the whole thing.
This can be due to mindless eating, or simply the temptation to reach for one more handfuls when the food is right in front of you. To avoid this, serve a small portion (the size you want to eat), in a separate dish and only take that dish with you to the TV. Put the remainder of the food in a hard to access area if necessary, to make it as difficult as possible to go back for more.
Eat Appetisers in Restaurants
Restaurants often have very large portion sizes; in fact, it is almost a selling point for many of them, representing value for money for a large amount of food. Whilst visiting these establishments may be a good way to get a large amount of food for very little outlay, it is also a quick way to overeat and consume more calories than you need.
To avoid this, order from the appetizer menu as these are usually smaller in size, or share an entree with a friend if you know the serve sizes to be big. Avoid added extras such as bread to cut down on additional calories you don’t really need.
By increasing your awareness of portion sizes, you can cut your calorie intake, which may result in more successful weight loss.
References used in this article