Portion Size Does Matter

Food Portion SizesEating right can be a dilemma. Even when we know what we should be eating, eating the appropriate amounts can be difficult. It’s hard to stop after just a few chips or a half-cup of frozen yogurt.

Recipes that serve up to six can lead to huge portions for three or four people. Making pasta for two might as well require a PhD. And dinner out at a restaurant? That hibachi meal for one could probably feed a family of five.

We asked Angie Sebree, registered dietitian with the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center, for her tips on how to maintain healthy portion size—at home and out to eat.

“In my own home, I like to cook once and eat two to four times so my other meals become quicker,” Sebree said. “In order to do this effectively, I have to plan my meals.” 

Sebree’s planning includes using one ingredient for multiple purposes. For example, when she cooks chicken for chicken tortilla soup, she’ll make extra, shred and freeze it for a different meal later, like chicken pot pie or white chicken chili. An added bonus? When you package up leftovers, it’s harder to go back for seconds. 

Another tip from Sebree is right out of a restaurant: Eat your salad first.

“I make and eat my salad or vegetable first and then plate the rest of my meal,” she said. “Typically I will then eat less of the more calorie-dense foods as I am not as hungry.”   

Sebree also recommends finding premeasured serving utensils and dishes, found easily online or at large home goods stores, as these will ensure a more accurate serving size than just eyeballing it and guessing.

Here are some more helpful tips from Sebree for controlling portions at home and away.

  • At home…
    • Try preparing individual servings rather than entire packages.
    • Make meatloaf or other casserole-type options in muffin tins. Consider one or two “muffins” as one serving, then put the rest in a Ziploc bag and freeze for a quick meal later.
    • After plating your food, package the leftovers and refrigerate before eating to avoid going back for seconds.
    • Keep a food scale nearby along with aluminum foil or Ziploc bags so you can distribute leftovers into individual portions.
    • Finish the plate in front of you, then wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds. (“I bet you won’t go back for more!” Sebree said.)
    • When out to eat…
      • Order and eat your salad first, and ask for light or fat-free dressing.
      • Get a to-go box with your meal and box half the meal before you eat.
      • Offer to share a meal with someone.
      • Order an appetizer and a salad rather than a large meal.
      • Ask to order off the children’s or senior menu.