15 Essential Tips for Portion Control

Written by Cara Rosenbloom

2 min read

Flashback to a couple years ago, I was at an antique shop and found the most charming little plates. I bought a half-dozen, thinking they would be perfect for appetizers. That’s when the shop owner told me they are actually full dinner plates from the turn of the century. But they were so tiny! And do you know what? Our portions were smaller back then too, and so were rates of obesity.

Canada’s obesity rate has tripled in the last 30 years, and our portion sizes have grown too. Coincidence? I think not! Large portions are one component of weight gain, along with genetics, lack of exercise, poor sleep, stress, and medical conditions. But large portions are one factor that we have some control over! 

Here are 15 small but significant ways we can eat well and watch our portions:

Use the plate model:

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and some fruit. Salad anyone?
  • Fill a quarter of the plate with protein, such as lentils, beans, fish, tofu, lean meats or eggs
  • Fill the remaining quarter with grains, and choose whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or pot barley more often. 
  • If you’re not eating on a plate (maybe it’s stew in a bowl), you can still look at your meal and consider the correct proportions.
  • Don’t obsess! I like the plate model because it makes you think about portions without going as far as weighing or measuring your food – who has time for that? 

When eating at home:

  • Plate hack: Use salad plates as dinner plates to train yourself to take smaller portions. Use the large dinner plates for salad! 
  • Share family meals at the dinner table, without the distraction of TV or other screens. Eating when you’re distracted means you may not notice when you’re full, and may overeat large portions.
  • Still hungry? Have seconds, but go for more vegetables. Fibre fills you up! 
  • Estimate portion sizes with simple household objects. A deck of cards is a serving of meat or chicken; a computer mouse is a half-cup; a baseball is a cup; a golf ball is a quarter-cup. 
  • Have a pitcher of water on the table and refill your cup. 

When cruising food delivery service apps:

  • Don’t let the chef dictate your portion size (you’ve never even met – how do they know how much you eat at a sitting?). Eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed. 
  • Most food delivery service apps let you customize your meal. Request a smaller portion of pasta, rice or potatoes, and fill that extra space with vegetables.
  • Don’t give in to “super sizing.” More food for less money isn’t a good deal for your health.
  • Share dessert instead of having your own. Or leave some for a pick-me-up the next day.
  • Drink water instead of pop, juice or alcohol.  

Did you know? Grubhub and Postmates provide calorie information; it’s worth it to know your recommended daily intake. This chart says it all, take a look to find your estimated energy requirements according to gender and activity level. And remember, you don’t need the same amount of calories at all points of the day. Use the classic idiom, “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper” to guide your meal choices throughout the day. 

Question: What tips do you use for managing portion size especially during the pandemic?

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