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24+ Portion Control Tips to Finally Keep the Weight Off

One of the most frustrating things about dieting is what happens after you stop. You've worked so hard, being mindful of every thing you've put in your body. You've weighed. You've tracked. You've sacrificed. Finally you hit your goal weight and it's time for maintenance mode. And then -BAM- 5 pounds get added to the scale. 

We all know that the number on the scale is definitely not the only, nor the most important,

metric that we use to track health. But it can be very telling. 

It happens to a LOT of people. The second we leave strict "diet" mode, the weight starts to come back on. So then we switch it back to hardcore restrictions, maintenance mode, weight comes back. And the cycle of yoyo dieting has begun. So does that mean we always have to be hyper vigilant and always weigh every french fry that comes our way? Thankfully, no. 

One of the biggest ways to combat yoyo dieting is with portion control. It's easy to think that at a restaurant we're going to be getting a bit more calories than we would if we're eating at home (false: it's a lot more. But more on that in a minute.) But we actually do it to ourselves at home as well. Most of the time we aren't even really sure all the different ways that we are piling on the extra calories--heaping scoops of pasta, large slices of bread, dressing on salad, sugars in all adds up. A few larger-sized portions a day and you'll see the number on the scale start to creep back up.

The first step to portion controlling like a boss is to actually know what a single serving looks like. Then you can go from there and really rein it in. The more knowledge you have over the food you put in your body, the better decisions you will make. ​


Food                                 Portion Size                                    No. of serves a day Fruit                                1 medium piece or ¾ cup          2 Vegetables                    ½ cup cooked or raw                  Min of 2-3 cups Lean meat/chicken    100-150g cooked (palm size)    1-2/day Fish                                150-200g (hand size)               1-2/day              Rice                                ½ cup cooked                              1-2/day Oil                                  1 tspn  (thumb size)                    1-2/day Avocado                        ¼ medium or 2 tbsp                   1/day Multigrain bread          2 small slices                              1/day Wine                              1 20ml or 1 small glass            1-2/day Nuts                                10-15 or 30g                                  1/day Sauces                           1 tbsp                                            1-2/day


Take a look at these serving sizes and try them out at home. Get comfortable being able to eye-ball it so when you're at a restaurant, you really feel confident making your choices. I like to use my hand as a helpful measuring guide because it's always with me (hopefully) even when my food scale is not. Obviously a food scale is way more accurate, so if you want to whip out your food scale the next time you're at Chilis, be my guest. But with my hand, I can practice a bit at home to see how many almonds actually make up 10g and then see what that actually looks like in my hand. Or for things like sauces or oils (that you really aren't going to want to pour into your hand while sitting at a restaurant--that's just weird) take a look at what it looks like compared next to your finger. A teaspoon-sized serving is roughly the same size as your thumb. The more tricks like this that you can master, the easier it will become. 

Here are some of my favorite at-home tips for portion control: 1) Always measure complex carbs using a measuring cup (eyeballing this one can EASILY get underestimated.) 2) Keep kitchen scales handy to check meat portions and serving sizes. 3) Measure out sauces and oils rather than pouring haphazardly. 4) Purposely look for small slices of whole grain bread when shopping. 5) Use goat's milk instead of cow's milk since it doesn't contain Lactase. 6) Measure out servings of dip and use veggies instead of crackers on serving platters. 7) Only carry portion controlled snacks of nuts and crackers. 8) Remember your plate ratios of ¼ protein, ¼ carbs and ½ vegetables or salad. 9) Serve desserts and treats in small bowls and glasses (the smaller the plate, the fuller it looks and it tricks your brain into thinking it's a big portion--and then you feel satisfied after eating a smaller portion.)

One of the biggest issues to consider when it comes to portion control is that when eat out --restaurants, cafes, even other people's homes-- we are likely to consume at least 20-30% more calories (and that's a conservative estimate. I've even heard up to 50%.) Extra oil, sauces and added fats from cheese and butter, large serving sizes of meat compared to small servings of vegetables, extra bread and possibly coffee and dessert. A feeding frenzy like that can EASILY give you 500-600 extra calories without even trying. 

Here are some of my favorite eating out tips for portion control: 1) Share large meals where possible. 2) Order extra sides of broth-based soups and salad to fill up on low calorie foods (always eat these before your actual meal. This will help keep you full before you've even started. Just be careful with your dressings.) 3) Use the fork method with your dressing: instead of just pouring on your dressing (which can quadruple the amount of calories and fat in a heartbeat) order it on the side and keep it in the cup it came in. With every bite, dip your fork into the dressing first and then into your salad. It gives you the perfect amount of dressing without sacrificing those precious calories.  4) Order entrée-sized meals and do not be afraid to ask for leftovers to be packaged up to take home.  5) On that note, be your biggest advocate. Not sure what oil/butter the food is cooked in? ASK. 6) Finish one glass of wine before starting another. 7) Move the bread basket out of sight and reach (or better yet, just ask for it not to be delivered to the table.) 8) Ask for sauces to be served on the side.  9) Practice eating only ½ of large servings of sandwiches. 10) Remove the bun from burgers and steak sandwiches (or even start with half!) 11) Ask for chips to be replaced with salad. BONUS TIP: Mexican food restaurants are notorious for people eating their weight in delicious chips and salsa. If you don't want to skip out on the entire experience, you can ask for carrots and cucumbers to dip into the salsa. In NO way am I saying it tastes just the same, but it still gives you something to munch on before the meal that won't pack a calorie and fat-filled punch.  12) Look for child-sized serving options of burgers, sandwiches, and fish meals. 13) Practice becoming comfortable not eating everything on your plate.  14) Never arrive at a party or food court hungry. 15) If you are dining out where there are large volumes of food readily available, (hello, Chinese food buffet) decide how many servings you will eat before you get there. 

One of the most important concepts to grasp if your goal is to lose weight and keep it off is moderation. A one time splurge isn't going to be a gigantic set back. But larger portion sizes day in and day out will most definitely get you in that calorie surplus and will negate all that hard work you've been doing. It just takes a practice being mindful of what you're putting in your body. You are worth it!

Dr Brian Hester Back to Health of Anthem

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