Eat Just Enough, Not Too Much
To lose weight, eat less. This seems logical enough. Yet it is not as simple as cutting back on portions. Many factors influence our ability to eat just the right amount.
The food environment has changed:
- bigger packages at grocery stores
- large portions served in restaurants
- bigger plates and glasses
Most people would feel cheated if they were served a meal in a restaurant that was the size of a meal 30 years ago. These changes have caused a distorted perception of a “normal’ portion of food and led us to eat more. 
Here are three things you can do.
- Determine how much food is right for you
- Reprogram your view of a normal amount of food
- Know the difference between a portion and a serving
Also find out the top portion control tips from the experts.
1. Determine how much food is right for you.
Very few people know how many calories and how much food they should be eating to meet their nutrition requirements. Everyone is different.
The right amount of food for you depends on your
- activity level
Canada’s Food Guide is a good starting point for determining your requirements and making sure your diet is balanced. However, if you are very active, you will likely need additional food guide servings. You can also use EATracker to learn the amount of food you need every day and estimate your calorie requirements. Track what you are eating and compare it to the recommendations.
Order Plate Mate , a tool available from Alberta Milk to help you personalize the guidelines from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and determine the number of servings that is right for you.
Registered dietitian Pam Boyson suggests strengthening your portion control efforts by listening to your body. “It’s important to listen to your internal cues on how much to eat. Watch for signs that you are full, and realize that it takes time, about 20 minutes, for your brain to register fullness.”
2. Reprogram your view of a normal amount of food.
To get used to a “normal” amount of food, you can
- measure your portions
- use some visual cues to estimate the size
Keep measuring your portions until you get a better idea of what a serving size looks like on your plate.
3. Know the difference between a portion and a serving.
Portions and serving sizes are often not the same.
A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time (at home, in a restaurant or from a package).
A serving is the amount of food listed on a product’s nutrition facts table . All of the information in the nutrition facts table relates to a specified serving size. Keep in mind that most packaged foods contain more than a single serving. You should also remember that a food product’s serving size may not be the same as a Canada’s Food Guide serving size . Eating more than one serving at one time is okay as long as you consider it part of your total daily intake.
More about nutrition labelling
Top 6 portion control tips
Check out these tips from the registered dietitians at Alberta Milk.
- Portion out “snack foods” or treats. Eat one portion per sitting and put the rest away where you can’t see them.
- Eat from a small bowl or plate rather than directly out of the package.
- Share fast food and restaurant meals with a friend or family member or take half home.
- Use small plates and glasses.
- Keep nutritious foods within easy reach and treats out of sight.
- Resist the urge to supersize.
- Wansink B. From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Physiol Behav. 2010;100(5):454–63.
Article posted on November 1, 2010