While the concept of portion control can be helpful for some, for others it's daunting and confusing. You'll be happy to know that it really doesn't have to be complicated.
When we focus more on the quality of the food we eat, the portion control part usually takes care of itself. We don’t usually overdo it on the broccoli and kale, right? Many times, the issue is that our body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, so when we eat a meal (or snack) that doesn’t fulfill our needs on a cellular level, our body stays hungry, a signal that it needs more nutrition. Unfortunately, we usually grab more “fillers,” the foods higher in carbs and calories.
Is all about losing weight or eating healthy
Portion control doesn’t mean we have to measure and weigh our food, although for some people this could be helpful. Rather, being conscious and more aware of our environment, how we feel, what we’re doing, and what we’re eating can be helpful.
We are constantly bombarded with options for processed, packaged, low-nutrient foods everywhere we go. They’re quick, easy, and convenient. Unfortunately, they leave us wanting and craving more while leaving our bodies undernourished regardless of how much of it we eat. Have you ever had the feeling of being full while at the same time you’re still feeling hungry? It’s usually because your stomach is full, but the food you consumed isn’t providing your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Portion control is also more of an issue when we skip meals, or we aren’t eating enough at each meal. This causes us to be ravenous later, reaching for anything and everything in sight! And this is when we are most vulnerable to making poor food choices. When the “I’m starving” mode kicks in, it’s hard to put the brakes on! Plus, we easily fall into the false thinking that it’s easy to cut calories by skipping a meal. Our body is smart – it keeps track of what it needs, sends the white flag of hunger up and we then try to make up for it, usually with overindulgence.
In our “Super Size Me” world of fast food, portions have gotten completely out of control. This isn’t just a problem in fast food restaurants though, it’s happening everywhere! Even before the supersize meals became available, larger, and larger beverage choices were available. In a Big Gulp® size of regular soda, you get a whopping 310 calories in a 32 oz. drink! A Super Big Gulp® packs over 500 calories, which can be approximately ¼ of your daily calories. And that doesn’t count the meal or snacks you’re having with your drink. It’s easy to chug down a huge beverage like this without even being aware of the calories.
Do you notice the portion sizes at most restaurants? They’re typically at least double what most people would eat at a meal at home. Even when you go to the movies, they try to get you to ‘buy up’ and purchase the largest size tub of popcorn. The problem is, the more food we have in front of us, the more we’ll eat.
An article published in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that we need to pay attention to both the size and the color of the dinnerware we use as it impacts how much we even serve ourselves. Even the color of a napkin can affect how we eat. What’s interesting is that in 1900 a dinner plate was a mere 9 inches. In 1950, plates were 10 inches and by 2010 had grown to a diameter of 12 inches.
A multitude of studies show that when larger portions are put in front of us, we’ll consume up to 50% more than what we normally would. All those calories sure add up! Can you believe that just an extra 200 calories a day over the course of a year adds up to an extra 73,000 calories? This equals approximately 20 pounds!
Being aware and better prepared is the key.
Here are 9 ways to get a better handle on portion control.
1. Focus on eating whole foods (avoiding pre-packaged, food-like substances as much as possible), including plenty of protein and vegetables, until you are satiated (that feeling where you are about 80% full). Don’t deprive yourself. This always backfires, causing you to eat more food later in the day. Most processed foods have chemical additives that make it difficult for us to limit consumption.
2. Eat a healthy snack, like veggies, before dinner (especially if you’ll be eating out). You can tell the waiter not to bring the rolls or chips to your table. Plan on taking part of your meal home for leftovers since most restaurants give you huge portions. You can even ask for an extra plate and put ½ the meal on that plate and pack the rest up to take home for leftovers – before you start your meal.
3. Include healthy fats in your diet. This will help you feel satiated longer and allow your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins your body needs. Ideas include avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and ghee (clarified butter).
4. Using smaller plates can be helpful. When you put food on a large plate, you almost automatically want to try to fill it up and then feel like you need to finish it all. By using smaller plates (and bowls), you may find that you eat less but still feel comfortably full.
5. Don’t skip meals. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Start your day with breakfast (preferably including some protein which will help you feel full longer) and plan ahead for lunch. It’s also a good idea to bring a healthy snack with you to get you through the afternoon before dinner. Portion control is very difficult when you’re starving!
6. When snacking, place the snack in a small bowl or on a small plate rather than eating right out of the bag or container. This is a huge help so you’re more aware of how much you are eating, and you can better manage your portions.
7. Plan ahead when ordering your meal to account for dessert. Order a smaller size dinner or share your entree. Often there are healthy appetizers that can be a full meal. Skip the alcohol and then enjoy a little dessert. Healthy eating is all about moderation. Don’t feel like you ‘can’t have it, just decide what you would enjoy more and make the choice.
8. Slow down when you eat and chew your food more. By slowing down and enjoying our food more, we end up eating less.
Instead of feeling like you must ration your food, change your focus to eating the most nutrient-dense foods you can find. Nutrient-dense foods will have you feeling better, looking better, and being more in control of your food choices and portions. Ask yourself “What is the best choice I can make that will give my body what it needs in order to thrive?” Quality counts.
Mindful eating is about: • a peaceful eating relationship with food according to your body’s needs • eating to support your body’s natural healthy state • balance, choice, wisdom, and acceptance • eating consciously in a way to make our bodies feel well • being aware of our surroundings, mind, body, and spirit • being “in the moment”
Mindful eating is NOT about: • dieting • measuring or weighing food • restricting or avoiding foods • counting fat grams or calories • worrying about body size or the number on the scale’ Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, CD
Have you ever been at your desk working away while eating your lunch and 30 minutes later you look down and realize you’ve eaten a whole plate of food and barely remember doing so? Or maybe you’ve been engrossed in a T.V. show and later realize you’ve consumed a whole bag of chips? At times like this, we may even still feel hungry because we didn’t even realize we had eaten. This is mindless eating - we’re all guilty of it at times! For some people, unfortunately, it’s the norm rather than the exception.
🔲 Create a mindful eating environment this week during each meal - turn off the 📺💻📱, set aside the 📘, take time to eat away from your desk. 🔲 Be conscious of how many times you chew your food. Enjoy the taste and texture. 🔲 Make it a goal to slow down at each meal this week and see if you feel any differently after the meat and throughout the day. 🔲📝 Journal your experience. Did you notice any changes in your digestion, energy level, sleep, or something else?
Our brain and our stomach are neurologically very connected. Think about how you feel when you’re eating in a relaxed state or environment versus eating during a stressful situation. We usually feel it in our gut, don’t we? And, most likely we feel it emotionally and physically. If you’re eating at the dinner table when an argument or disagreement breaks out, you probably won’t feel like eating anymore and the food you have eaten isn’t sitting very well. You may even have an upset stomach. This is a quite different feeling than when things are peaceful and you’re enjoying a nice meal. The same can apply to when you’re feeling rushed versus calm.
The way we eat and the environment we’re eating in matters. It’s not just what we eat, but also how we eat.
Eating in a stressful environment can inhibit digestion and nutrient absorption. This means your body won’t fully benefit from the food you eat, even your healthy choices.
Good digestion and nutrient absorption are equally important for achieving and maintaining an ideal weight range. When we aren’t absorbing enough nutrients, we stay hungry, which leads to eating more food even when we may not still be hungry. Furthermore, you could become nutrient deficient over time and have more health issues than just being overweight or obese. Therefore, mindful eating is so important and ties into portion control.
When we eat mindlessly, not being fully aware of when, how much, or what we are eating, it takes longer for the brain to tell us that we’re full. We end up eating more than our body requires. And, sadly, we also miss out on the enjoyment of food.
“The other half of the story, by the way, is who we are as eaters. What we think, feel, believe, our level of stress, the amount of pleasure in a meal, the level of our attention to the eating experience, the inner story we are living out, the speed at which we consume our food, the degree to which we feel nourished, the intention with which we choose a food – all of these, and more, powerfully, literally, and scientifically impact the metabolism of every meal we eat.
The ancients were surely right on this one all-important point – that mind and body exist on a continuum, are not separate from one another, and indeed have a powerful energetic influence flowing between them. The new field of Mind Body Nutrition clearly asserts the simple science behind these concepts, but the proof is in your own experience. Can you feel how nutrition is more than just the food you eat? Have you noticed that eating under stress literally diminishes your digestive power? And can you see how the thoughts you think and emotions you feel are constantly bathing your biology in their energetic waves of influence?” Marc David, M.A., author, The Slow Down Diet and Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating
Mindful eating can help with overeating by allowing you to slow down to focus more on portion sizes. It also keeps you connected to your hunger and satiety cues (when you feel full and satisfied). There is one quite simple and highly beneficial thing you can do that will help. However, although it’s simple in concept, it’s not always easy to remember to do - chewing. That’s right- chewing - as in chewing your food more.
There are two simple ways to become a more mindful eater. The first is to eliminate distractions. Eat your meal without multi-tasking: put aside the book, turn off the TV, don’t eat while working at your computer, and especially don’t eat while driving. Enjoy your meal alone or with others but focus on the meal. Sitting down for a meal to genuinely enjoy the food that is nourishing your body is something you deserve.
Next, chew each bite of food at least 30 times. This may sound like a lot of chewing, especially when we’re used to chewing each bite more like 10 times and gulping our food as soon as we feel we can swallow. Chewing each bite forces you to slow down, which is a good thing.
Digestion begins in the mouth with the chewing process as enzymes that break down your food, are released through your salivary glands. Chewing your food adequately allows your body to absorb and assimilate more nutrients and improves digestion. Because you’re taking more time to chew, you’ll notice that you feel full sooner, which means you’re much more likely to consume fewer calories while still feeling full.
The next time you eat, give it a try. Before you eat, take a deep breath or two and relax. Focus on the meal you are about to eat. Do your best to chew each bite 30 times and notice how you do and how you feel. When you practice chewing regularly, you’ll find you no longer must count your chews; you’ll know by the texture of the food, which should be completely liquefied before you swallow. Your stomach doesn’t have teeth, so the more you can break down the food in your mouth, the easier it will be for your body to digest it.
Other Mindful Eating Tips Include: • Pause and take a breath before you eat so you are relaxed • Turn off distractions like cell phones, TV and stay away from the computer • Sit at a comfortable table to eat • Notice your posture – are you slumped over or sitting up straight? Posture can affect digestion • Notice the aroma and appearance of your food • Notice the taste and texture • Chew each bite 30 times or more • Put your fork down between bites • Focus on positive conversations during meals • Notice how you feel • Enjoy your food
Be aware of what your habits and mindless eating triggers are. We all have them. Maybe it’s a stash of candy in your desk drawer or eating while at your computer or on the phone. Maybe it’s when you come home from work and grab a bag of chips or when you sit down to relax and watch a show on T.V. It could also be a trigger when you’re bored. Think about what the triggers are for you, acknowledge them, and make a plan to work on them.
For most of us, triggers come down to the habits that we have formed over the years. Many habits have us on autopilot without being consciously aware of the decisions we’re making. This is a great time to take a step back and evaluate which habits you’d like to change that will be more in alignment with your goals.
Mindful eating is an awareness that can take some time to acquire. It certainly does not come automatically for most of us. Our environment is working against us here, and so is the hectic pace so many of us are keeping. Maybe this is a good time to evaluate some things that are causing a lot of stress and find ways to reduce it. Stress affects us on every level – emotional, mental, and physical. By taking steps to eat more mindfully, we can at least know that a few times each day we get to slow down and do something good for ourselves, our health, and our bodies.