Understanding portion control can be tricky, especially when the labels on your foods don’t make it any easier. It’s common to look to the serving size to determine proper portion size, but they actually don’t mean the same thing. Here’s the difference.
A serving size is the amount of food recommended on the Nutrition Facts label, suggested by the product’s manufacturer and based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
A portion size is the amount of food you simply choose to consume, meaning that it could be more than one serving size.
The recommendation on the label isn’t always going to match your personal needs. That’s where the importance of understanding portion control comes in.
“In the world of nutrition, we emphasize individualization,” says Connie Cheng, wellness director for Gold’s Gym. “Nutritional labels are based on 2,000-calorie limits, but there’s so much more that determines calorie needs. It’s age, gender, energy expenditure, how much you exercise, health condition, inflammation and whether you want to lose or gain weight.”
“The hand method is good for measuring serving sizes in on-the-go situations,” she says. “For example, if you don’t have a serving sizes sheet in front of you at a restaurant or when traveling, the hand method is a good general reference.”
Another plus for portion control: It helps you develop healthy eating patterns. And since each food group contains different nutrients your body needs, following these guidelines helps you establish those routines.
We’re here to give you a hand.
Now that you have a handle on portion size, here are seven tips to make it even easier.
1. Remember to meal prep. Prep all of your meals, not just lunch. The more prepped you are, the more you’re set up for success.
2. Listen to your body. Cheng says this is all about being mindful of your hunger and satiation. For example, you should never wait until you’re starving to eat, since this can lead to binging sessions. And you should always stop eating when you’re full.
3. Drink lots of water. In addition to drinking water throughout the day, have a glass before meals and try other ways of making hydration your routine. Sometimes when you feel hungry, it’s just because you’re thirsty. Water fills you up.
4. Don’t eat from the bag. To prevent binge eating, replace the original container with portion-control snack bags as soon as you bring home snacks from the grocery store.
5. Use smaller dishes. Instead of going for the full-size dinner plate, use a salad plate. The smaller dish creates an illusion that the serving is much larger.
6. Eat regularly. Skipping meals usually means that you’re eating at a starving state, which can easily lead to binging sessions.
7. Fill up on veggies. Eat your non-starchy fruits and veggies first so you fill up on low-calorie foods that are high in nutrition.