Paleo, Vegan, Keto, Vegetarian, Atkins.. It doesn’t matter which diet you prefer. They all work. What matters is your consistency and consuming healthy portion sizes.
Portion sizes have become increasingly larger in the US since the 1960’s. It started in a Chicago movie theater when popcorn sales were low. David Wellington noticed that not many people were buying two bags of popcorn, so he introduced a larger size where he could charge more for the extra popcorn. Wellington noted that people avoided buying seconds as to not appear gluttonous, but if a larger size was available they would buy it. The idea was an instant success and McDonalds took notice. This is when the large fry was born. And then the super size meals, combo deals, king size candy bars, “party size” bags of chips, etc. followed suit.
Now in America, we have no idea what an appropriate portion size looks like. Our perception has been so skewed by these oversized meals that we don’t question finishing our whole plate of pasta at a restaurant or an ice cream sundae as big as your head.
The obvious solution to this is to use a kitchen scale and measuring cups, but that just sucks. No one wants to do that every day. And I don’t want to advise you to bring these things with you to a restaurant and be “that guy/girl.”
5 Easy tips to regulate your portion sizes without leaving yourself hungry:
1) Ditch the “Diet Foods”
Low calorie cookies, gluten-free chips and crackers, sugar free ice cream treats, fat free yogurt are all common foods that we buy in effort to eat healthier. What actually ends up happening is we eat more of these foods because we think they are better for us. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ll buy Halo Top ice cream every now and then and some nights I’ll end up finishing the whole pint. I would never finish a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (and no one really needs that much ice cream in one sitting.) But I justify it to myself because it’s only 280 calories a pint for my oatmeal cookie ice cream. Many packaged diet foods are also low in one macronutrient (carbs, protein, or fat) that they are usually too high in the others leading to imbalances and more hunger leading you to overeat.
2) Fill Half Your Plate With Veggies
This is probably the simplest and easiest way to portion control your meals. Somewhere along the way, our culture got in the habit of starting with the starches. Think of rice, pasta, and potatoes. We tend to start loading our plate with these foods, then adding the meat (or whatever protein source), then a small side of veggies. We know from an earlier post I wrote, that consuming a high amount of carbs, especially simple carbs, leaves us feeling tired and then hungry again a short time later. If we start by filling our plates with half vegetables we are automatically decreasing our portion sizes of more calorie-dense foods like mashed potatoes and steak. But because we still have 30% of the plate left for protein, and 20% left for starches (then add your healthy fat!) we are psychologically satiated from eating a whole plate of food, but we will also be physiologically satiated from the additional fiber and nutrients from the extra veggies.
3) Using The Right Plate Size
There are a lot of studies behind using smaller plates to decrease the amount of empty space on your plate. This is known to psychologically make you feel like you’re eating more food. This is a great trick for eating foods such as cake and ice cream. Using a small ramekin and overloading it with a scoop of ice cream feels way better than having a regular bowl and one lonely scoop at the bottom. But there is also a time where you need to be able to break out your big bowls! When I make salads for myself and Tim, we use the largest bowls in our kitchen. I never portion control my veggies. If i’m bingeing on brocolli, that’s something I can live with.
*Note: The picture at the top of this article has the same amount of food on all 3 plates, but the plate got smaller!
4) Don’t Avoid Your Favorite Foods, Just Compromise A Little!
No food has to be forbidden. If you love cereal, or ice cream, or pasta, you should eat those things! (as long as you’re not allergic). Avoiding them all together will likely lead to a binge later down the road when you finally decide to have it. Or you’ll just be unhappy from restricting yourself so much! Tim and I love dessert, so we eat it every night. But we had to figure out how to do this in a way that is still in line with our health goals. For Tim, we found a healthy cheesecake recipe that I can make in a mini muffin pan so he only has a couple small bites each night. For myself, I make a chocolate protein “pudding” in a small Tupperware dish and top it with almonds. We both get our sweet tooths taken care of in a healthy and happy way. Here’s a recipe for a healthy sea salt caramel dessert!
If you love cereal, try doing some research for a healthy alternative to what you love. There are a lot of cereals you can recreate with healthier ingredients. You can also just have one cup then add in berries and swap out regular milk for almond milk!
If you love pasta or rice, start with your extra sautéed veggies and a healthy protein then add 1 cup of rice or pasta on top.
If you love pizza, make your own crust from cauliflower or whole sprouted grains and top with healthy veggies!
There is always a way to eat food that makes you happy while still making healthy choices. It just takes a little extra work. But it’s worth it. It’s the efforts like this that will make your healthy lifestyle sustainable.
This leads me to my last point…
5) Cook Your Own Food
Restaurants love to over feed you! We actually can sometimes feel cheated if they don’t! But after we put in the work to create our own meal, we tend to shy away from the mindless eating that leads to overeating. We appreciate the time and ingredients that went into the meal and usually slow down a little bit. Much different from calling up Dominos and within the hour the pizza is made, delivered, and already eaten.. and then you’re hungry again. We also know exactly what goes into our food when we cook it ourselves! No sneaky ingredients and mismatched portion sizes!
Easy Tips to Remember Portion Sizes
1) Nuts: it’s SO easy to overeat on almonds or cashews. A healthy portion size is a cupcake wrapper full of nuts. Even better, stick to pistachios! Having to slow down by opening them and “working” for your snack tends to stop you from overeating.
2) Pasta/rice/grains: The size of your closed fist is a healthy portion size. (Just your first! Not the whole hand and wrist!) Load up on your cooked veggies first then throw this on top!
3) Cheese: The size of a domino is a healthy portion size. Or a full fat cheese stick works too! Pair it with a piece of fruit or some veggie slices and you’ve got a great snack with fat, fiber, and protein!
4) Salad Dressing: 1 tablespoon is about the size of a poker chip! Dressings are a sneaky offender in turning a healthy meal into a high caloric mess. Start with one tablespoon (ideally olive oil). Then squeeze some lemon juice on top (or any citrus fruit.) Or make your own salad dressings like the ones I posted at the bottom of my salad bar post! Use salt and pepper over your greens for more flavor. *If you flip a soda can upside down, the depression on the bottom holds exactly one oz!
5) Nutbutter or hummus: 1-2 tablespoons is a healthy portion size. Think the size of a ping pong ball!
6) Meat: the size of a deck of cards is a healthy serving of meat for a meal! Roughly 3-4 oz.
Final Tip: I keep measuring spoons and cups all around my kitchen to double check and remind myself of these healthy portion sizes. Overtime, you’ll train your eyes to estimate without having to use them as often!
Creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself doesn’t have to leave you dissatisfied or hungry! You can still eat the things you enjoy, but with correct portion sizes and some effort, you don’t have to feel guilty about it!
Let me know how these tips work for you! I love hearing from you all!
Love and Light,