Trying to manage portion size can feel like a constant, impossible task. People face down huge portions at restaurants and are surrounded by oversized packages of processed foods at every turn. It can all get so overwhelming! Luckily, with a few simple tips, successful portion control can get easier! With the right management of your food supply and kitchen, you can enjoy your favorite foods without the portion distortion headaches.
So, where can we begin? Successful portion control falls into two categories: tools and tips. We'll begin with the tools that can communicate helpful portion control messages and serve as great reminders for healthful habits, and then we'll move on to 12 simple tips that you can apply today in order to make portion control a snap!
First, size matters! Taking a look at "typical" portions and then finding reasonably-sized alternatives can make dining out much less stressful. Consider this Scale Down Your Portions poster for inspiration. It offers a closer look at foods that come in huge portions, and then provides alternatives that are often similar (or the same!), but which come in smaller portions. After all, who wants to do fractions in their head while trying to eat a burger? Make things easier on yourself by finding lower-calorie alternatives to foods that come in huge portions. P.S. This poster is double sided -- one side is in English and the other side is in Spanish! How handy is that?
When it comes to portion size, not going overboard is key. Of course, that's easier said than done. The Portion Control: Don't Go Overboard handout breaks key lessons of portion control into snippets that are easy to understand and apply. It offers calorie comparisons between "typical" portions and smaller alternatives, and also provides a handy-dandy guide to eyeballing portions. After all, imagining fitting a cup of vegetables into an actual measuring cup can be hard when they're sitting there on your plate and you don't have any measuring cups with you (and why would you bring measuring cups to a restaurant?!). Using the mental image of a tennis ball or other familiar object of about the same size instead can help you eyeball the portion successfully. That trick, along with dozens of others, is featured on this colorful handout.
Of course, what good is eating healthfully without some delicious inspiration? Yes, many manufacturers are now making a fortune by packaging their foods into 100 calorie "snack packs," but you can create nutrient-rich, delicious 100 calorie packs of your own, right in your kitchen. The 100 Calorie Snack Pack poster offers tons of tasty recipes for 100 calorie snacks that are chock-full of vital nutrients. Each snack is budget-friendly, easy to prepare and store, and, of course, has been rigorously tested, just to make sure that it is extra delicious (and not at all because I love a good snack).
Well, there were some tools that can help with portion control. Now let's move on to the dozen tips that will help you become a portion control master in no time at all!
- Choose Bread Carefully. When you choose breads, go for ones that have less than 100 calories per serving. Some bread slices have 90 to 100 calories each, which could bring the "per serving" total to almost 200 calories. Some big bagels, rolls, and loaves can top that, with over 400 calories per serving. However, you can buy bread that has 45 calories per slice, or you can choose a small pita or English muffin. These usually have only 100 calories per serving.
- Squeeze It! Pick up a squeeze bottle of mayonnaise -- the squeeze tube makes it way easier to lay out a teaspoon-sized serving. Now it will be simple to use mayonnaise in moderation and still get to put it on sandwiches and in other recipes.
- Spray Your Dressing. Spritz bottles of dressing are perfect for portion control! Spray a little of your favorite dressing over your salad, and the calories will stay scant while your whole salad shines.
- Drizzle The Oil. Put your olive oil or other cooking oil into a drizzle bottle and you will use 75% less over the course of a year. That's helpful for your waistline and your budget!
- Make or Get Little Bags of Snacks. If you buy potato chips in single servings, you will usually eat less at each sitting than you would if you grabbed a big bag and sat down on the couch. Single-serving bags also preserve freshness, which means that your portion control efforts won't be shabbily rewarded by stale chips overflowing and spilling out of the bags in your pantry. If snack packs aren't budget-friendly, pick up some zip-lock baggies of your own and pre-portion servings from one big bag into those little bags.
- Make A Fruit Bowl. If you keep washed, ripe fruit out on your counter at room temperature, it will get eaten. Apples, pears, and oranges adapt to this technique quite well. You can also fill the deli drawer of your refrigerator with ready-to-eat fruits.
- Pick Winning Snacks. "Grab and go" yogurt that has 100 calories per cup is a winner for breakfast, lunch, and after dinner.
- Go Crackers! Purchase whole grain WASA crackers instead of "putting on the ritz" and you will reduce the empty calorie content of your snacks. Top them with peanut butter and fruit for a great open-faced sandwich base that is high in fiber.
- Share Your Dessert. If you pick up a whole cake, a box of cinnamon rolls, or a few packages of cookies or brownies, you'll likely add 2,000+ calories to your pantry. If you do this every week, it really adds up. Instead of stocking your pantry with calorie bombs, dine out when you need a sweet treat. Go out, be social, and share!
- Make tea. Purchase tea bags and make refrigerator tea every day. Switch out the flavor choices and consider adding slices of citrus fruit or sprigs of fresh herbs. That way, a delicious, calorie-free drink is always at your fingertips.
- Play "Protein Cards." Slice any meat or poultry that you're serving into small, thin pieces, just like a deck of cards. This will help you keep an eye on the portion size.
- Make a Big Salad. Have a big spinner bowl of salad waiting for every meal. Salad that is ready gets eaten!
-- Judy Doherty, PC II
Download a free portion handout: Free Portion Control Handout
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.