Managing Portions

Research shows that people often eat and drink more than their bodies need when they are served larger portions. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat.

Choosing smaller portions can be an important step in creating healthy eating patterns and maintaining overall health and well-being. Try these tips to help you control portion size at home or when dining out.

Foods come in different forms and are not always equal in what counts as a cup, ounce, or other measures. Some foods are dense, while others have more air or water in them. Measure out 1 cup, 1/2 cup, or 1 ounce of some different foods into the plates, bowls, glasses, and cups you usually use. Become familiar with what these portion sizes look like:

  • 1/2 cup = tennis ball
  • 1 cup = baseball
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons = golf ball
  • 3 ounces chicken, beef, or pork = deck of cards
  • 3 ounces fish = checkbook

Read nutrition labels carefully for serving size information. You might think a package contains a single serving, but it might really contain two or more servings. It’s important to understand how much food is in one serving if you are trying to control portions.

Eat your meals on a smaller plate. A smaller plate means a smaller portion. Downsizing your plate can reduce the number of calories you eat and allow you to feel satisfied at the same time. 

Finished your plate but think you’re still hungry? Wait 10 minutes before going back for seconds. You might not want them after all. If you do go back for seconds, add veggies or fruit to balance what you’ve already eaten.

If you buy larger bags or boxes of foods, especially snacks, divide the items into single-serve, ready-to-go bags.

At a restaurant, share your meal, order a half-portion, or order an appetizer as a main meal. Or ask for a take-home container as soon as your meal is served. Put half the meal in the take-home container so you can let your stomach, not your eyes, help you decide how much to eat.

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