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Taking Caution With Portions

by Joyce Haddad - October 5, 2016

Over the last 2 decades, our serving sizes have gotten bigger, and so have our waistlines. From supersized meals, to 1 litre soft drink serves, and even larger plates and cutlery – no wonder portion control has, well, lost control.

Although I’m not a big fan of measuring portions or weighing food, I do think it is important to become aware of just how much we’re serving ourselves at meal times, and even snack time. Because we have become so accustomed to larger meals, plates, bowls, glasses, this has distorted our view of ‘normal’ servings. This is causing us to serve larger and larger portions without even realizing it.

So here are my tips on how you can control your portions, without the need to measure out, weigh your food, or leave the table feeling hungry and unsatisfied.

1. Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses

To eat less without realizing, all you have to do is switch to using smaller tableware. For example, pour ½ a cup of cereal in a small bowl, and ½ a cup of cereal in a bigger bowl. As seen in the picture below, you visually ‘get more’ cereal in the smaller bowl. This simple tactic will automatically tell your brain that “this is a lot of food”, which helps you resist adding, or eating more.

smaller plates will help reduce portion sizes

Source: Instagram @nude_nutritionist

2: Fill at least half of your plate with your favourite vegetables

You will never go wrong by filling up your meals with these superfoods. A rainbow of colours and a range of textures (leafy and crunchy) will give you essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, without the added unnecessary calories. This way, you fill up on nutrient-dense food, and therefore end up eating smaller portions of the other food on your plate.

3: Don’t over-feed your eyes

The trick to not over-eat, is to not over-feed the eyes. Next time you serve yourself food, only serve yourself what you want to eat. If you can’t do that, then reduce your normal serving size by at least one quarter. The eating process starts by our seeing sense - so a smaller serve will show your eyes that's the only food they're getting. If your eyes see less food, they won't ask for more food by triggering hunger... and without noticing, you will end up eating less.

4: Don’t let yourself get too hungry

It is important to not let more than three to four hours pass without eating. If you do miss a snack or a meal, you will get to a point in the day where you might get too hungry. This will inevitably make you eat a large portion at the next meal. However, eating at regular and sensible intervals during the day, even if just a small amount, will prevent an uncontrollable appetite, allowing more portion control at your next meal.

5: Use visual cues to get to know your portion sizes

Use your hands as a good measure of your own unique portion

A tight fist usually indicates a serve of carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potato). For an average person, 1 – 2 serves of carbohydrates at each meal is sufficient.

a tight fist indicates a serving of carbs

The palm of your hand indicates a serve of protein (meat, chicken, fish, tofu). For an average person, 1 serve of protein at each meal is sufficient.

palm of hand indicates a serve of protein

Two cupped hands indicate a serving of raw vegetables, and one cupped hand indicates a serving of cooked vegetables

two cupped hands indicate a serving of raw vegetables
For an average person, 2 – 4 serves of vegetables at each meal is recommended

6: Last but not least, eat mindfully.

Eating mindfully is the most important thing you can do to control how much you eat. If you make meal times exclusive for just meal times (i.e, no TV, computer, phone, tablet), you will allow your body to guide how much you’re going to consume, and thus, avoid over-eating. To read more about mindful eating, click here.

Portion perfection does not mean you have to over-think each meal you eat. Rather, using these 6 simple steps will help you better control your portions, without the unnecessary mealtime stress. 


Joyce Haddad

Joyce Haddad is a Qualified Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. Her aim as a health professional is to help the public make informed and REALISTIC nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.