Weight Loss: Portion Control

Portion Control PlatePortion Control Plate

An introduction to Portion Control

One of the most common reasons for failure in weight loss is overeating.  No matter if you are trying to lose weight or just start eating healthier the first thing you need to learn is portion control.  The first step is to really understand what a portion or serving size is.  If you do not understand portion sizes, you will ultimately fail to lose weight and may even gain weight.  

 Over the years super-sizing has become so common most people cannot even recognize a correct serving size anymore.   They look at the portion of fries that have been “king” sized and think that is a serving buy it is way more than one serving.  As I began to surf Facebook and message boards on weight loss and fitness,  I realized I needed help getting the serving size right so I bought a food scale to help me determine the difference.  I know there are other ways to do that and some of those are listed below, but the handy dandy scale is what worked for me.  

Portion sizes sound so simple.  The problem is that our ever-growing portions over the past twenty years have caused us to be unable to judge a portion size with our eyes.  Heck, even the simple dinner plate has down from the dainty 9-10 inch plate to the 12-14 inch behemoth we use today.  At the average burger joint, the adult portion size for a burger is the kid’s meal and not the monster hundred patty burger we eat today.  

Evolution of Dinner Plates
Figure 1: Evolution of Dinner Plates: The dinner plate keeps getting larger and so does our appetite.  Imagine our waistline in the 2050s with a 14-inch plate.  

In today’s society, every day is a feast worthing of a king.  Our food is so cheap in the United States that almost everyone is overeating and storing fat for the famine that never comes.  In fact, most Americans are actually malnourished in that the foods we eat are not nutritionally diverse.  We eat lots of corn and wheat and not enough vegetables or fruits.  We drink too many of our calories.  In fact, fruit juice should be rare and in many families, it is an everyday item with 12 ounces or more per serving.  If drinking juice is not bad enough we have made artificial “juices” like Gatorade, Sodas, and Koolaid.  This artificial juice is full of sugar that is packing on the pounds.

Portion Sizes
Figure 2:  Portion Sizes

Serving or portion sizes are how we determine how much of each food we have.  If you look at the chart in Figure 2, you will see that the serving size of a piece of bread is about the size of a cassette tape.  Of course, my son just rolled \his eyes and asked what a cassette was.  The average slice of bread today is two servings.  Some potatoes are 2-3 servings so you can see how eating all that they give you in a restaurant can get out of control.  Figure 3, which is below, shows the number of serving and the suggested distribution per meal.  The below image is from the choosemyplate.gov website which is a good source for information although it is a little biased against meat.  

Number of portions per day.
Figure 3: Number of portions per day.  

So let’s get back to portion control and out of the pulpit.  Portion control is easy.   Here are a few ways to accomplish it:

  1. Use a portion control plate.  This is an example that explains the different food types and how much of your plate it can cover.  I have one and use it for solid foods when I am in the maintenance phase of my diet.  When I am trying to lose weight, I like the accuracy of method #2.
Portion Control Plate
Figure 4: Portion Control Plate
  1. Use a food scale.  This is the least convenient and most accurate method, but it is the method I prefer when trying to lose weight.   I find it also to be convenient for me but you do have to shell out money for a scale.  Figure 3 is one such scale and the one I chose to buy.  
Figure 4:  Food Scale
  1. By prepackaged meals.  This is great for folks that are on the go and do not have time to make their meals.    You can use any of the prepackaged frozen calorie-controlled meals that are made in the microwave or you can choose to buy Nutrisystem.  Personally, I cannot tolerate Nutrisystem because I do not like the taste.  I prefer Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Weight Watchers Smart Ones.  
Figure 6:  Weight Watcher Meal
  1. Use portion control container.  A lot of really successful dieters have used these to maintain and lose weight.  I just bought a set to try.  I will write an article soon.  I think they are very promising.  They are smaller than I thought they would be which is an estimate of how much our culture had lost its touch on what a serving is.  
Portion Containers
Figure 7: Portion Containers
  1. Estimate.  This is the cheapest and at least for me the hardest to do.  I underestimate the portion that I am eating so I weigh my food when I am at home and use this method then I am out.  

Recommendations:  Portion size is key to weight loss and maintenance.  I recommend that you buy either a scale to weigh the food to enter it in a food journal such as Lose-it or buy a simple portion control plate or container that will allow you to estimate the portion size based on the amount of acreage it covers on the plate.  It is nearly impossible to maintain proper portions with our measuring.  I will do an article soon on how to best reduce your portion sizes when you do not have the ability to control what you buy or the contents of your plate.  

Recommended products: Scales will help you measure our the right amount of each ingredient in your meals.  Once you have a weight, it is easy to put it into a lose-it or another diet journal.  

The portion control containers are great product to help yopu limit you portion size.  Several of them come with an app to help you track you portions on you iPhone.  

The bottom line: I hope this inspires you. Any thing that can control portions and reduce intake can assist with weight loss.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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