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Keeping Portion Sizes Under Control

October 2021

Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Eating less food but enjoying it more, allows you to focus on the taste, texture, color, and temperature of the food. Is it tasty? What herb or spice flavors do you recognize? Tasty, well-prepared food allows you to cut the portion size so you are eating a serving size that is reasonable rather than a double or triple size portion with little flavor and satisfaction. Your taste buds can tell the difference!

Centering your attention around the food rather than adding the meal or snack to TV time, computer or other activity is smart. By paying attention to the food itself you will be satisfied by eating less but enjoying the food more. Slowing down how fast you eat also helps in eating less. Multi-tasking with food as part of the mix, will mean more food, more calories and less satisfaction. Savoring your food will help you to keep your portions under control.

Eat like a kid and push away from the table when you feel full. Adults lose that sense of “feeling full” when they overeat. Make sure you listen to your body and stop eating before you overindulge. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you have eaten enough. The slower you eat, the better. You will eat less and still be satisfied with less food. The saying goes, “Your eyes may be bigger than your stomach” so eating at a slower pace will help you to overcome overeating.

Make sure you include some foods in your snack and meal plans that will slow you down. Eating nuts that have to be shelled like pistachios will slow you down. Fresh cherries or watermelon that have pits will also slow you down. The shells and pits on your plate will also remind you how much you ate. On the other hand, you may wish to purchase individually packaged snack foods such as cheese and crackers, nuts, small granola bars, dried fruits, fresh apple slices or other fresh veggies and fruits in single serving packages. These help some adults and kids to eat fewer calories and more realistic portions along with discouraging overeating.

To avoid eating more than you thought, try measuring foods and beverages using single serving bowls and cups. Get familiar with what 2 ounces of cooked pasta looks like or 1 ounce of cheese. Making loaded sandwiches with meats, cheeses, dressings and large rolls or bread will certainly be much larger amounts of food at lunch or dinner. Even if the loaded sandwich is cut in half, portion size is still beyond a single serving. Drink water with meals rather than sugar-sweetened beverages. Large glasses of sweet beverages add many calories and sugar to a person’s diet and pump up calorie counts enormously. This causes a person to have a larger appetite and to crave bigger portions of food.

Remember, a serving size is what is listed on a package while a portion size is what you decide to put on your plate to eat. The new Nutrition Facts Label has updated serving sizes for many foods/beverages. You will still need to pay attention to how much you consume out of a container. Making sure you read food labels will help you to eat/drink the appropriate amount. Americans overeat all the time and then ask, “Why am I gaining weight?” or “Why can’t I lose weight?” Taking small steps to control your portion size will help you to manage your weight and enjoy your meals and snacks more.