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How to Portion Control for Sustained Weight Loss

Portion control strategies for weight loss that won’t leave you feeling hungry.

At some point in your life, you were probably told that you can never have too much of a good thing. And for the most part that’s true. Money? Vacation time? Hallmark holiday movies? The more, the merrier, right?

Unfortunately, the adage does not ring true when it comes to food. You won’t have to search far to find studies that suggest large portions served over time may lead to overeating and increase the risk of weight gain.

But combating the problem posed by large portion sizes isn’t as simple as ‘don’t overeat.’ We've been conditioned to finish what's on our plates from an early age.

Unfortunately, the portion size of food has dramatically increased over the past 40 years. Studies show that bagels, muffins, and pasta dishes have doubled in size since the 1970s and the average size of foods from fast-food chains, restaurants, and grocery stores has increased by 138%.

And with increased portion sizing comes increased caloric intake. It’s a case of our brain working against our stomach.

Which is why knowing how to control portion sizes when trying to lose weight is so important.

Portion Control Methods That Won’t Leave You Feeling Hungry

  1. Measure or Weigh Your Food:

Fruit and seeds measurements

The most accurate way to control how much food you’re putting into your body is to measure the exact amount you want to eat. You can use measuring cups or a scale if you’d like. Portions don’t have to be an exact science.

  1. Use Portion Control Plates and Containers:

Meal stored in meal prep container

While measuring your food may be the most exact way to know how much you’re eating, it won’t always be the most practical. If time is a factor, you don’t want to waste what you have of it pouring food into a measuring cup you don’t intend to eat from.

A simple solution is to serve meals on smaller plates or bowls and divide leftovers into portioned containers.

This may sound like a no-brainer when it comes to eating less, but there’s some science behind its success. As we said earlier, people eat more when served larger portions. By using smaller plates for meals and portioned containers for leftovers, you can’t overeat because you’ve given yourself a set amount of food.

Of course, if you feel full before you’ve finished eating, it’s best to set your plate aside, no matter what size it is.

  1. Stay on Schedule

Your body will let you know when it’s time to eat. If you’re on a set eating schedule, you’ll be able to anticipate mealtimes and prepare your food before you feel like you’re ‘starving.’

Eating before you get too hungry is a great way to ensure you feel full without being enticed to go back for seconds.

Whatever your schedule, it’s important not to wait too long between meals. GOLO suggests spacing your meals between 4-6 hours apart and not going longer than 6 hours without eating. Research shows that a delayed eating schedule is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Whereas keeping a set eating schedule during ‘normal hours’ (8 AM – 7 PM) promotes weight loss and improvements in energy metabolism.

Quick Tip:

Give yourself permission to “spoil” your dinner. On days when you know that it will be longer than 6 hours between meals, make sure you’ve got a healthy protein-based snack at the ready. That way, you’ll avoid overeating when the time comes to sit down and eat.

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  1. Drink More Water

Woman drinking water

Whether it’s approximately 30 minutes before a meal or throughout the day, drinking water can help with portion control. Not only does having water in your stomach makes you feel fuller, but according to the Mayo Clinic, drinking water either during or after a meal aids digestion.

  1. Practice Mindful Eating

Older man eating salad

While your taste buds let you know right away how something tastes, it takes about 20 minutes after you start eating for the message that you’re full to form and reach your brain. This is where the term ‘mindful eating’ comes in. When you practice mindful eating, you’re helping your brain work for you so you can help yourself make healthier eating choices.

What are the best ways to eat mindfully?

  • Eat at a slower pace: Eating slowly allows your brain to catch up with your stomach so you know when you are full.
  • Eat ‘in the moment’: Doing other things such as watching TV while eating tends to increase food intake. So, turn off your TV, put down your phone, and focus on the meal in front of you.
  • “Listen” to your body’s fullness cues: Take a moment to stand up and move around at some point during your meal. When you start to feel full, give yourself some time before taking another bite.
  1. Fill Up on the Right Foods

Being mindful of your portions does not equate to counting calories. But it is important to know that when it comes to calories, not all food is created equal.

Foods that contain more calories (energy) per pound, such as oils and nuts, have a high energy density. Whereas meat, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables tend to have fewer calories per pound and are considered low energy-dense foods.

When trying to lose weight without limiting food intake, it’s important to eat foods that are low in energy density. These foods have fewer calories. Eating a diet rich in these items can help manage body weight.

Low energy-dense foods that will keep you feeling full for longer:

  • Vegetables like salad greens, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and zucchini
  • Fruit: strawberries, grapefruit, bananas
  • Carbohydrates: whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, steel-cut oats, brown rice
  • Dairy: Whole milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
  • Protein: Eggs, lean meat, fish, tofu
  • Fats: Nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil
  1. Use a food diary

Creating a list next to plate of fruit

It’s one thing to be mindful about what you’re putting into your body. But you may have a completely different perspective on what you’re eating and drinking when you write everything down in a food diary.

Keeping a food diary for a short period of time, such as 1-2 weeks, can help you spot problems that might be sabotaging your weight loss.

Tracking what you’re eating and drinking for every meal can help you become more aware of your eating habits. It’s only after you know your bad habits that you’re able to break them. Make sure you track everything that you eat and not just meals. A bite of this and a piece of that can add up over time.

Benefits of keeping a food diary:

  • Increased awareness of positive and negative eating habits and patterns
  • Helps to identify food sensitivities
  • It makes it easier to change your behavior

Quick Tip:

The more specific, the better. Don’t just make a note of how much you ate of something. Write down ingredients, what time you ate, and how you felt after eating. This makes it easier to identify problematic eating habits.

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How to Build a Properly Portioned Plate for Every Meal

Eating a healthy, well-portioned meal is about balance. It’s why being a vegetarian doesn’t mean only eating vegetables. Vegetarians still need muscle-building proteins and the energy that carbohydrates provide in their diet.

Simply put, a healthy plate consists of a balance of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Portioned plate clipart

You may think that only having four options for a complete meal is restricting. But the food options are almost infinite and work for all three meals throughout the day. Here’s a quick example:

  • Breakfast: eggs, spinach, whole wheat toast, avocado
  • Lunch: chicken, leafy greens, apple, dressing
  • Dinner: Salmon, broccoli, rice, olive oil

Note, GOLO members can reference their GOLO for Life Smart Card to help build a balanced meal. With the Smart Card, GOLO has taken the guesswork out of meal planning and portion control.

Quick Tip:

You don’t have to be a master chef to build a well-balanced plate for each meal. There are plenty of no cook meal options that can be put together in no time at all.

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Use Your Hands as a Portion Guide

When we talk about using your hands when you eat, we don’t mean you should only dine on wings and ribs. What we mean is to use your hands as a portion control guide.

You won't always have access to a portion control plate or the time to eat slowly. Which is why learning how to use your hands is an excellent technique for portion control.

A guide for using your hand to portion your meal:

Portion meal servings using your hands as guides

Again, not every meal has to be perfectly portioned and properly divided up. But getting into the habit of thinking about your portion sizes and learning how to accurately estimate how much should be on your plate to keep you full between meals is a great start to seeing significant weight loss results.

How to Portion Control When Eating Out

Man laughing while sitting in front of a plate of food

Controlling your portions is easiest when you’re in a familiar and comfortable kitchen environment. But that won’t always be the case, especially if you like to go out to eat.

Dining out can be a wonderful experience, especially when you are with company you enjoy. It can also give you a chance to try new, delicious foods. The problem is that restaurants want you to leave feeling full, so they tend to serve much larger portions than you need.

But there’s no need to cancel dinner plans just because you’re being mindful of portions. Instead, try these portion control strategies so you don’t overeat when eating out.

  • Start with soup or salad: Including a brothy soup or leafy greens is a great way to start a meal.
  • Share a meal: Cut your cost and your portion with a friend.
  • Order a healthy appetizer: Sneak in an extra serving of veggies before you order your main dish.
  • Ask for a to-go container right away: That way, when your food comes, you can easily portion out what you want to eat and put the rest in the container to take home!
  • Enjoy the experience: Remember our tips for mindful eating? Dining out is a great opportunity to relax, take in your surroundings, and enjoy your company.

How Portion Control Can Help with Successful Weight Management

The idea of counting and cutting calories is not the sole factor to losing weight. In fact, a ‘calorie in and a calorie out' system is not only antiquated, but also just wrong.

When it comes to successful weight management, your focus should be on the quality of the food you eat, not the number of calories you consume.

Building a balanced plate means you’re eating a complete meal. You don’t have to cut out food groups or give up foods you love to lose weight. You just have to learn what to eat and how to structure the meal.

Putting together balanced meals is quick and easy with the tools and resources you get from GOLO. With the help of your GOLO for Life smart card, myGOLO recipes, and food preparation, you’ll be eating balanced meals you love that taste great in no time at all.

The bottom line: food is meant to nourish and be enjoyed. So, eat what you love, be mindful of the quantity you eat, and find happiness with every meal.

Bon appétit!

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Sources:

 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25398749/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25447010/

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-have-food-portions-increased-2016-4

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25802021/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33259790/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/digestion/faq-20058348

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24462489/

https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/r2p_energy_density.pdf

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20044318

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/stop-counting-calories

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