‘Get Your Plate in Shape’ During National Nutrition Month With These Tips on Portion Control

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association). The 2012 theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” During the month of March, I’ll be devoting one post each week to giving you healthy eating tips to “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

This week is all about portion control. As a registered dietitian, I have noticed that people are trying harder. With the variety of cooking and food television shows and talk shows focused on health and wellness and blogs like this, many of us are trying to do better. That said, I have seen many people choosing more nutritious foods, but there is still a lot of processed convenience foods being consumed. The biggest issue is that Michigan is the 10th most obese state in the nation. This is a clear indicator that we are all still eating way too much.

I found this interesting infographic, below, by Massive Health that explains the issue of portion control and suggests some steps to help you cut back and be more realistic about how much you are eating. (View a larger version here.)

Use a Salad Plate

Remember that a portion of food should be based on how your body reads a serving, not how much you can visually put on your plate. The new MyPlate guidelines definitely can help with steering you toward a more well-balanced diet, but it’s also important to control how much you consume. A good trick is to use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate when portioning out food servings.

I always bring up the simple fact that I am only 5 feet 1 inch tall, where my husband is 5 feet 11 inches. For some reason when we are eating together, I seem to think that I should be eating the same amount as him and he thinks he should be eating for someone who is 6-foot-11. So you can see how this could easily increase the amount of food we eat.

The bottom line is that most people need to dial back on the amount of food they are eating. So think well-balanced, portion-controlled meals and snacks daily. You can do it. Try measuring how much you are eating to gain a clearer knowledge and perspective regarding portions.

What do you do to help control your portions? Do you choose a well-balanced diet as well?

Photo Credit: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and mitsukini

Inforgraphic Credit: Massive Health

(Visited 638 times, 1 visits today)

Read 12 Comments

  1. Excellent post, portion control is definitely a major issue especially with the vast array of ‘All You Can Eat’ buffets. What I have started to do is ensure that at least 50% of food on my plate is vegetable and the remaining divided between carbs (sweet potato, brown rice) and fish / meat. It really does make a meal more filling.


    1. Hi Gareth,
      Thanks so much for your comment and reading this blog. I love your approach to portion control and agree by eating half of your plate as fruits and vegetables it really helps keep you full with some good nutritious foods. :0)

  2. Hi Grace,

    Portion control can be effective in cases where excessive consumption of food is due to enjoyment alone, in which case food quality is not an issue because the metabolism is working properly.

    Unfortunately, our modernized food supply is laced with added sugars and omega-6 industrial seed oils(1), both of which can cause appetite issues. In sufficient quantity, added sugars have been shown to be addictive(2). Omega-6s in excess tend to induce the munchies because they stimulate production of endocannabinoids(3). But even at stable weight, omega-6s can cause problems with fat deposition and lean tissue retention(4).

    But back to portion control. A good way to lose weight is to eat foods that keep the appetite in check. This generally translates into high-fat/carbohydrate-restricted food intake(5). Even athletes can benefit from high fat intake, especially if they are sensitive to carbohydrates(6).

    1. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201103/your-brain-omega-3
    2. Note: the article headline mentions fat but mostly discusses sugar. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-11/fatty-foods-addictive-as-cocaine-in-growing-body-of-science.html
    3. http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007%2810%2900391-6/abstract
    4. http://www.susanallport.com/newsletter728511.htm
    5. http://articles.latimes.com/2002/mar/13/food/fo-52-13
    6. http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2012/02/05/sorry-but-carbo-is-really-a-no-no

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment and reading this blog. I appreciate it. 

      I do think that portion control is very important too. I agree that the foods we choose to eat also make a big difference in our weight loss goals and healthier lifestyle plan. 

      I think making sure you get your heart healthy fat in is essential, but you still most be careful regarding the amount of fat in general, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Each gram of fat actually has 9 calories, compared to carbohydrates and protein that only have 4 calories per gram.

      When discussing appetite and the macronutrients of food, in general, fat and protein take longer for our gastrointestinal system to digest, hence why it will naturally keep you feeling satisfied longer than carbohydrates. In general, I recommend mixing food groups and macronutrients at any meal or snack to help with satiety and to avoid overeating. Another thing that can help is eating slowly. During the digestive process there is 3 chemicals that get released to tell the brain you are full. This process takes 20 minutes. So chew thoroughly and enjoy your food. 

      Thanks again David for your comment :o)

  3. I agree with Dave, increase your healthy fat intake and you’ll feel more satisfied. Fat enhances the flavor of food. I’m not suggesting you lather your food in butter or deep fry. I am suggesting cooking your food in a wok w/2 tbps of oil preferrably one that’s been season with hot peppers. Quick deep fry at the right temperature also means less oil in the food. Spicy food enhances the flavor of food and contributes to a sense of satiety. Season your food! When food tastes good and you take time to enjoy it, you’ll discover you don’t need or likely want more food. Maybe it’s me, but bland food typically means shoving it in my mouth mindlessly and eating more, eating quickly trying to achieve a full feeling. When my food is appealing and tasty, I want to savor it.

    Lastly, having more protein and healthy fat in my diet does decrease my inclination to overeat. I love to eat but the better I get at combining foods at a meal the easier it is to eat well.

  4. Thanks for your comment and reading my blog, LaTonya.

    It is true that there is a scientific reason that we feel more full from fat.
    1. There is 9 calories per fat gram as opposed to protein or carbs that only have 4 calories per gram.
    2. Fat (and protein) take longer to digest, therefore they keep you full longer.

    The goal of course is to try to choose heart healthy fats, but depending on the person and their health conditions and health goals, they still must be careful regarding how much. I am not a fan of deep frying or frying as a cooking method, but if one is going to do so, like you mentioned the oil must be heated thoroughly and properly.

    There is some evidence that states spicy food will help keep one satisfied, but other studies indicate that the spicy mouth feel is what makes people slow down and drink water or stop eating that food sooner, instead of over eating. But, I guess whatever works to help someone decrease portions, of course, this is also case by case. If someone has ulcers, suffers from GERD, is pregnant or doesn’t like spicy food, this is not a good idea.

    Seasoning food with fresh or dried herbs rather than salt is important and a great way to bring out flavors in food. However, be careful of certain spices that indicate “seasoning” in its name. Sometimes these spices also have salt in them. When advocating for a healthy lifestyle, one should not consume any more than 2,300 mg of sodium, this is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of regular table salt. If you have high blood pressure or there is a family history of hypertension, the goal is only 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Beware of lite salts or sea salt, etc, because even though they have a lower sodium content, people tend to use more.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us, LaTonya.

  5. Grace,

    I agree. Anyone with health conditions affected by their diets has to learn what foods and cooking ingredients affect them negatively. I’m no authority but I, too, do a lot of reading and there is a lot of reading out there on the benefits of adding spices to your food. Spices do more than causes us to slow down while eating. Cayenne is recommended for aiding in digestion for example.

    We don’t use commerical seasoning products so when I said season your food, I was referring to herbs, spices and kosher salt. I do have a family history of hypertension so my mate is a fanatic about how much salt is in our food. His logic is to use it sparingly, use it during cooking and not adding it at the table. We also are diligent about not eating processed foods. We don’t buy canned vegetables.We don’t eat prepared meals out of a box or bag. We don’t keep junk food in our house. In fact, when we shop, we shop the outer aisles. We don’t use bottle dressings or sauces. For us, when I have salt, we do keep it at levels safe for us. I actually know what the recommended sodium level is for me because I calculated on LiveStrong. I also monitor my blood pressure. I own my own cuff.

    I’m not advocating that deep frying or frying in general is a good way to prepare food. My point is if prepared properly and eaten in moderation, you can enjoy it. Our meals are normally cooked in a wok, cast iron skillet or the oven. You can’t get fried chicken in my house.

  6. Thanks Latonya. I must have misunderstood, because I thought you were only speaking of spicy-hot tasting foods, rather than herbs and spices. So it sounds like we are definitely in agreeement, herbs and spices are a great way to season and flavor your foods while, also getting wonderful health benefits.


    Great job with controlling your salt and sodium intake!

    And I agree and advocate for moderation with any and all foods. Deprivation, only makes for a cranky person that is usually more apt to binge later. As you know, in the end, it is always best to know yourself and your body because this knowledge is power when living a healthy lifestyle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.