Controlling portions can help cut calories.
Family Health

What Is Portion Control? 5 Simple Tips to Manage Your Weight

When it comes to managing your weight, it's easy to get swept up in the latest diet craze, exercise fad, or supposed miracle supplement. But there's an easier, more proven way to stay slim: controlling how much we put on our plates.

What is portion control? And more importantly, how do you implement it in your daily life? Here's a look at how managing portion sizes can help you lose weight and still enjoy the foods you and your family love.

Portion Distortion

In the last 60 years, the average American adult's weight has increased by roughly 26 pounds. While it's easy to blame things like too much sugar or fat in our food, there's a far more basic culprit: We're eating bigger portions. Since the 1950s, the typical hamburger has doubled in size, sodas have ballooned five-fold, and the average restaurant meal has more than quadrupled.

As portion sizes expand, so does the number of calories we eat, even from healthy foods. The good news: By simply downsizing the amount of food on your plate you can cut calories and lose weight without making any other changes to your diet.

Small Changes, Big Results

In a world of oversized entrees, giant bags of chips, and salads that are large enough to feed an entire family, getting a grip on portion size can seem like a challenge. You can make the effort easier if you:

  1. Read the fine print. Not sure where to begin? Start by reading the Nutrition Facts label on the packages of your favorite foods. It's a gold mine of nutrition information, telling you exactly how big your portion should be, the number of servings per container, and the calories in each serving.
  2. Plate it. Nibbling straight from the container or a serving dish makes it almost impossible to keep tabs on how much you're eating. Instead, portion your food directly onto a plate or into a bowl, so you can see exactly how much you'll be consuming.
  3. Keep it in the kitchen. Eating in front of the TV or the computer might seem harmless, but the distraction of your favorite show or video game can make it tricky to keep track of the amount you're eating. It can also interfere with your body's ability to gauge how full you feel. Enjoy meals and snacks seated at the kitchen table instead, and you'll be able to pay closer attention to the amount of food on your plate.
  4. Follow the two-inch rule. In the 1980s, the average dinner plate was roughly 10 inches in diameter -- today, it's closer to 12. Leaving a two-inch food-free perimeter around the edge of your plate can trim the amount that you serve yourself by 44 percent.
  5. Eat out strategically. Today's typical restaurant meal delivers roughly 1,200 calories. That's more than half the calories most of us should eat in an entire day! Instead of ordering an entree, try a side salad and an appetizer, or share an entree with a friend. You'll save money and calories.

By making these small adjustments you won't have to ask yourself, "What is portion control?" -- you'll be able to put it into practice, cutting potentially hundreds of calories every day in the process.

Posted in Family Health

Karen Ansel is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant, speaker, journalist and author. Her work has been featured in Fitness, Shape, Oprah, Weight Watchers, Parade, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health magazines. She received her Master's of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen belongs to several dietetic practice groups including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Nutrition Entrepreneurs.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.