One of the most important strategies for losing (or maintaining!) weight may just be the one we are, as humans, the worst at: portion control.
It’s not that we don’t understand the importance of watching our portions or even how many portions we should have—it’s just that our judgment in estimating how much food is in a serving is noticeably off.
“We may think that we’re eating one serving of pasta, when in fact we’re eating three or four servings,” says Kerry Grann, a principal research scientist, who works on the BodyKey™ SmartLoss™ program and supporting products for Amway.
We’ve got some tips and simple tools to help you gauge your portions and keep track of what you’re actually putting into your body.
Weigh and measure everything
Make the time to weigh and measure every last morsel, especially at the beginning of a new eating plan and again if you start to see the scale go in the wrong direction.
Seeing what the measured amounts look like will give you a better understanding of true portion sizes and hone your skills at estimating when the scale or measuring cups aren’t around.
Stock your kitchen with the measuring cups and spoons and a simple kitchen scale to ease the process. Look for one that uses ounces and grams and has a tare function, so you can account for your plate or container.
Some even feature a pull-out screen, which is handy to see the readout when using a full size dinner plate or other large dish.
Measuring food on the go
There are small, portable food scales ideal for on-the-go weighing, but there are ways to measuring food without one. In fact, you have a handy measuring tool with you at all times.
Using your hand as a guide, here are some general measurements to use when out to eat or at the homes of friends or family. Compare your hand to the real thing to improve your accuracy:
- Palm of your hand: 3-4 ounces
- Front of your closed fist: ½ cup
- Clenched fist: 1 cup
- Fingertip: 1 teaspoon
- Full thumb: 1 tablespoon
Remember that estimating is not natural to us humans—so get precise and see what a difference exact weights and measurements can make.
Read nutrition labels
We underestimate how much we eat, and overestimate how many calories we burn, which can be a big obstacle to successful weight loss. Checking those nutrition labels to discover intended portion sizes can be key in building awareness.
Portioning out a single serving of an item based on the label and comparing that to what you normally consider a serving can be surprising.
“If you want to stay consistently within your zone of success, you’ve got to be realistic about how much food you’re putting in your mouth,” Grann said. “When you make these little mistakes consistently throughout the day, it derails your weight loss goals.”
Customize your portions to your needs
Not everyone needs the same portion size for optimum health and weight loss. Men, pregnant women, or more active people might all need a different amount. And getting enough to eat can be just as important to staying on track as not eating too much.
Some weight loss programs are customized to an individual’s weight, gender, age and activity level, including BodyKey™ SmartLoss™.
When users log the type and amount of food they eat throughout the day, the app helps them understand how that will influence their weight loss.
“Instead of focusing on a specific amount of any single nutrient, the plans emphasize paying close attention to portion size and making optimal food choices,” Grann said. “Best of all, there is no calorie counting required.”
Become a portion pro
All these tools add up to a consistent awareness of portions, a necessary element in your weight loss plan.
“If you learn to consistently keep your portion sizes in check, no food is ever off-limits,” Grann said.