Looking for a way to simplify portion control? One technique my patients often rave about is using portion control plates that do the measuring for you!
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The Science Behind Portion Control
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but portion control has consistently been identified in research studies as one of the single most impactful weight management strategies (O’Neil et al., 2005; Schulte et al., 2020). This is because you must be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, meaning that you are eating fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. Typical calorie targets for weight management range between 1200-1800, depending on your individual needs. Practicing portion control allows you to monitor the calories you eat, while also prioritizing foods with the most nutrients for your body (like lean protein and vegetables).
One of the most rigorous ways to assess portion control is by tracking your calorie intake through a free app like MyFitnessPal. This approach will allow you to see whether you’re eating a balanced diet of healthy fats, proteins, and whole grains throughout the day, while staying within the calorie deficit required for weight loss. If you are looking for the “gold standard” way to practice portion control, then I encourage you to begin logging all of the foods and beverages you eat! However, not all of my patients enjoy food logging or feel able to devote the time to this approach. If this sounds like you, then read on!
Portion Control Basics
Before we continue, let me briefly run through some of the basics of portion control, in case you may have less experience with weight management.
The current nutritional guidelines in the United States are summarized by the MyPlate infographic, which encourages individuals to fill half of their plate with vegetables and fruits, one quarter with lean protein, and one quarter with whole grains. The guidelines suggest also having a small amount of dairy.
In terms of portion sizes, I encourage my patients to eat as many non-starchy vegetables as they like, which is a low-calorie way to increase the volume of a meal and maximize nourishing micronutrients. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include leafy greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, and onions. The more vegetables you add to that half of your plate, the better! Next, prioritize 4-6 ounces of lean proteins (e.g., poultry, pork, sirloin, seafood, tofu), which helps you feel satisfied and fuller for longer after eating. You can think of grains as “side dishes,” meaning that it is especially important to practice portion control with this category and choose complex carbohydrates like quinoa or sweet potatoes, rather than refined carbohydrates like white rice or bread.
For more information on formula for building a healthy meal for weight loss and how to reduce how often you cook, check out my article on meal prep!
Portion Control Plates
Many of my patients describe to me that portion control is a strategy they know they need to implement but have a hard time following through with. There are numerous reasons they report feeling this way, such as being inundated with high-calorie processed foods on a daily basis, not being responsible for doing the cooking for themself/their family, and having a busy social life that involves dining out frequently.
One way to make it more likely to follow through with portion control is to reduce the time and effort it takes to be successful, and my patients have shared that portion control plates allow them to do just that! Portion control plates can help you remember to follow the MyPlate guidelines of filling half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, one quarter with lean protein, and one quarter with whole grains. Beyond this, the segments on the plates can remind you of the amount of lean protein and whole grains you can enjoy while working towards your weight management if you don’t have time to track your calories in an app.
Here are some options you can explore!
- This is the portion control plate developed by MyPlate:
- This one has additional science-supported tips on the plates, which I love!
- This simple set is chic for stealthily practicing portion control at your workplace or at school!
Dr. Schulte’s Summary
Portion control has consistently been noted in research studies as one of the most important strategies for weight management, which you likely already knew! If you find it difficult to follow through with practicing portion control, then tools made to reduce the time and effort you have to put into it may be useful for you. I encourage you to think about ways to “hack” or simplify your healthy behaviors, such as using portion control plates as a seamless way to reduce calories without tracking.
Questions? Drop a comment below or send an email to email@example.com!
O’neil, P. M., & Rieder, S. (2005). Utility and validity of the eating behavior inventory in clinical obesity research: a review of the literature. Obesity Reviews, 6(3), 209-216.
Schulte, E. M., Tuerk, P. W., Wadden, T. A., Garvey, W. T., Weiss, D., Hermayer, K. L., … & O’Neil, P. M. (2020). Changes in weight control behaviors and hedonic hunger in a commercial weight management program adapted for individuals with type 2 diabetes. International Journal of Obesity, 44(5), 990-998.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own and are not affiliated with my employers. Please seek medical guidance before pursuing weight loss or making significant changes to the way you eat or your physical activity routine.