Portion Control Your Body by Controlling Your Food

shrimp,avocado and mango salad

Can you portion control your body by portion controlling your food? If your eating habits are out of control you are not alone. America is overweight. Over two-thirds of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. Another 5.7 percent are extremely obese. In addition, the number of children under the age of 19 who are overweight or obese is also growing1.

Experts believe that portion control, or lack of it, may be at the root ofAmerica’s weight problem. “Supersize’ is now a key word in our culinary vocabulary and we are teaching our children that the more they eat the better. Does the phrase ‘clean your plate’ sound familiar?

Clean Your Plate

You can exhort your children to clean their plates with success when you follow good portion control rules. Unfortunately, few Americans know what equals a healthy portion when it comes to basic foods. Instead, we pile food on our plates and on our children’s’ plates. As we eat supersize portions we are modeling poor eating habits for the next generation.

A portion is the amount of a food you consume at one meal. A serving size is the amount of a food suggested from each food group, (found on a food’s packaging under Nutrition Facts in many cases)2. At times, the portion size and the serving size are the same. At other times they are different. However, the serving size listed under Nutrition Facts on pre-packaged foods is only a guideline laying out nutrients and calories and is not a suggested amount of how much you should eat.

Breaking the Portion Barrier

How can you determine how much food equals one portion? Chances are high that you are currently eating portions that are too large. When you learn to estimate typical portions you will be able to easily manage your servings at mealtimes. When you are in the kitchen you can use nutrition labels, measuring cups, and measuring spoons to help you determine portion sizes. You may be surprised at the difference between a normal portion and what you have been eating in the past.

Experts suggest comparing portion/serving sizes to normal objects. For example, if you are preparing a snack of ¼ cup trail mix it will be about the size of an egg. You can prepare this without measuring if you use the egg as a reference.

Serving Size Comparisons3:

Serving Size Everyday Object
1 cup cereal Fist
1/ cup cooked rice, pasta, potato ½ baseball
1 baked potato Fist
1 medium fruit Baseball
½ cup fresh fruit ½ baseball
1 ½ ounces low fat cheese 4 dice
½ cup ice cream ½ baseball
2tablespoons peanut butter Pingpong ball
3 ounces meat/poultry Deck of cards

Controlling What You Eat

Once you have the information you need about portion control you must put it to use. Portion control must become a part of every meal. When you prepare meals at home every plate should contain the correct portions of each food group. When you dine out the task becomes more difficult but you can control what you eat by remembering portion control.

The ‘Healthy Plate Method’ offers a great way to control portion size:4

  • ½ plate –non-starchy vegetables
  • ¼ plate – whole grains or starchy food
  • ¼ plate – protein (meat, chicken, fish, dry beans, or other source of protein)

The Healthy Plate method of portion control allows you to get everything you need – excellent nutrition – and control your weight while eating delicious food. You do not have to starve to lose weight or maintain weight. You do not have to go hungry to be healthy.

The Universityof Tennessee Extension Servicesuggests you choose a colorful fruit dessert to complement the Healthy Plate Method of portion control4. You can drink low fat milk and always start the day with a great breakfast.

Adjusting to healthy portions may be difficult for you if you are used to eating what you want, when you want. As the role model for your family it is up to help your entire family make this change, including your children. Here are a few tips to make the change to a healthy household easier5:

  • Never eat out of a box or a bag. Eat off of a plate.
  • Do not eat in front of a television, while reading, or during any other activity.
  • Eat slowly to enjoy your food and know when you are full.
  • Do not use large plates or glasses.
  • Only take seconds of low fat foods such as vegetables or salads.
  • Eat meals at regular times. Do not skip meals or leave large intervals between meals.
  • Choose snacks that are low in fat such as fruit or yogurt. Choose single serving snack packages for items such as low calorie baked chips or crackers so you are not tempted to eat more than one serving.

According to scientific studies on weight loss the more you eat out the higher your body fat percentage. If you eat out often you can consider cutting back. When you do eat out you can try the following tips to control your portions6:

  • Split your meal with a family member. Order ½ of an entrée. Order a healthy appetizer as an entrée.
  • Eat ½ of your entrée at the restaurant and save ½ for later.
  • Never ‘supersize’.
  • Do not order sugary drinks.

You can portion control your body by portion controlling your food. Everything you eat makes a difference in how you look and feel; what you eat makes a difference in your health and your weight. Following the tips in this article you can control the portions when eating at home or in a restaurant.


Overweight and Obesity Statistics. (Feb 2010). Retrieved from Weight-control Information Network win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/#overweight

2 What Is the Difference Between Portions and Servings. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institutes Of Health: hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/keep.htm

3 Just Enough for You About Food Portions. (n.d.). Retrieved from Weight Control Information Network: www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/just_enough.htm#difference

4 Use the Healthy Plate Method. (n.d.). Retrieved from The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture: utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W248.pdf

5 Just Enough for You About Food Portions. Op. Cit.

6 Just Enough for You About Food Portions. Op. Cit.


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