Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to maintain a healthier lifestyle, you probably already know it’s important to keep portion control in mind. Sure, eating a plate of vegetables is healthier than eating a plate of pasta or a bowl of ice cream, but it doesn’t mean we should neglect ourselves from enjoying our favorite comfort foods. In an effort to make a good portion control diet a part of our daily lives, we caught up with a few nutrition experts to give us some of their best tips to control portion sizes. So before you load your plate, keep some of these ideas for portion control in mind.
1. Visually Portion Your Plate
A good rule of thumb recommended by the majority of dietitians is to keep track of how you fill your plate. In general, try to keep about ¾ of your plate with vegetables and lean protein. If you do this, Nicole Stefanow, MS, RD, says you can “have the freedom to fill the remaining portion of your plate with whatever goodies you choose guilt-free.” If you want an easy way to keep plating your portions in check, this simple mantra from Stefanow: “Fill half your plate green, a quarter plate lean, have no guilt to lick your plate clean.”
2. Use Your Hands
At the most simple level, Kayla Girgen, RD, founder of Nutrition Untapped, has an easy visual to maintain proper portion control (without using a measuring cup or scale): your hands. “I like using hands to estimate food portions because they are representative of the person,” says. “For example, if you are serving a meal for yourself, spouse, and your children, using each person’s fist as an estimate for meal size helps keep portions in check and appropriate to the individual.” Use one fist to portion out snacks, and two fists for meals.
For anyone that doesn’t want to guess, there are also healthy eating tools available to purchase such as food portion control cups ($14, Amazon) that are labeled with the type of food to measure out how much you’d need per meal.
3. Don’t Skip Meals
When it comes to portion control and planning for big food and drink events (like holiday feasts or just a planned night out on the town), it’s never a good idea to skip meals to save up calories. “It almost never works and ultimately leads to bingeing,” says Amy Goodrich, MS, RD, owner of Leading Edge Nutrition. “Eat regular meals and snacks like normal, and enjoy a portion of your favorite treats and move on.”
4. Curb Cravings Without Overdoing It
If you really just want a snack that isn’t a raw vegetable, go ahead and allow yourself to have that cookie, but stop at just one serving. “I tell myself, ‘more doesn’t taste better, it’s just more,'” says Judy Barbe, RD, owner of LiveBest and author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest. “A handful of chips gives me a salty crunchy bite but eating handfuls out of the bag doesn’t taste any better than the first few.”
5. Drink More Water
One of the easiest ways to maintain proper portion control and avoid overeating is by drinking lots of water. A scientific study in young, healthy adults proved less food consumption if by drinking water before a meal compared to not drinking any water at all.
Water is also beneficial for portion control with alcohol. Goodrich recommends drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water for every alcoholic drink to stay well hydrated and stick to the recommended one alcoholic drink per day for women or two alcoholic drinks for men.