Friday, November 20, 2009

Portion Control Revisited

I eat healthy foods; at least most of the time. Yes, I have an occasional "treat," but I can honestly say that I stay away from too much salt, sugar, fat, and too many processed foods. The majority of my meals consist of whole, unprocessed, and whenever possible local, organic fruits and vegetables. I almost always start my meals with a salad and drink plenty of freshly made vegetable juice almost every day.

If there is one area where my diet needs improvement, it's portion size. It's no wonder that in one of my very first posts, I asked, "What's A Portion?" And I wrote about it again here, here, and here.

Over the past few months, I have once again focused my attention on portion size. And I think this time, I'm actually more successful than in the past. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I have lost a bit of weight, and I was able to buy jeans in a smaller size the other day.

Here are a few things that have helped me keep my portions under control:
  • eat regularly and don't get too hungry
  • take healthy snacks to work and outings
  • start lunch and dinner with a big salad
  • use a dessert plate instead of a giant dinner plate
  • plate food in the kitchen to avoid mindlessly reaching for a second helping
  • eat cereal, soup, etc. out of a coffee cup
  • be especially mindful when eating "problem" foods (for me), such as pasta (I used to eat soooo much pasta....)
One purchase that came really in handy are the ramekins I bought a few weeks ago. Remember them?

I originally bought them to make mini apple crisps, which I have made quite frequently since. I love the built-in portion control in this dessert...

Soon I started to use them as a serving dish for all kinds of foods. The ramekins are small enough to make a little bit of food seem like a lot more. And there is just something about having a "bowlful" of food and finishing it. It's satisfying!

Here is a ramekin with some nonfat plain Greek yogurt and blueberry preserve.

And here are my favorite organic chips. There are 16 chips in one serving. Counting them out and putting them in a ramekin has been really helpful. In fact, it feels like I'm eating a lot of chips... What a difference to eating them straight out of the bag!

And here is 1/4 cup of granola with some milk. 1/4 cup of cereal looks like "nothing" in a bowl or even a coffee cup. But in the ramekin, it is actually a nice portion.

And finally, two very small scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream....

Question: What are your portion control strategies and "tricks?" Please share!

Be well,


  1. I love using small bowls like that, too. You can trick your mind so easily!

  2. I try to portion right out of the container when I get home from the grocery store. Then I have the preportioned snacks ready to go.

  3. The little custard cups are a great idea, and that is what I do and what I suggest to clients. I always use small plates and small bowls, therefore I end up eating less, always. I may go back for seconds, but it's a small helping of seconds, because I'm usually quite satisfied!
    I also think it's a great idea to NOT get too hungry. Never go too long without food and bring snacks with you wherever you go so you don't end up stranded and STARVING and tempted to eat at McDonald's!

  4. Ramekins are perfect. I should use mine more often. They are great for portion control. Smaller plates are great too. I often try to just eat when I am hungry and stick to small amounts since I know that a couple hours later I will just have another small snack.

  5. I've been meaning to buy these for ages and just haven't gotten around to it. This is a great reminder! I portion control mostly out of the bag - counting out a portion ... and then one more ... and then maybe one more!

  6. Anonymous11/20/2009

    I use a little bowl too for things like granola/yogurt snack bowls, or actually all my snacks. For breakfast I use big bowls, but I usually use a large piece of fruit (apple, pear, berries) as the 'base' then things like cereal/yogurt as more toppings rather than 'mains'. It's surprising how small serving sizes are for some things in terms of volume- and some packaging labels are weird. I picked up a cookie when i was in NY that had 1.73 servings. Whaaaaaat?! We don't have 'serving sizes' in the UK on food labels.

  7. small cutie pie bowls are a great idea. i have those ramekins too but i'm using them for salt right now.

  8. I buy this Classico Sundried Tomato Pesto. It is delicious and low cal and great on all kinds of things. The best part is, I keep about four of the empty canning jars they come in in my glasses cupboard because they are exactly one cup and they have 2, 4 and 6 oz measures on the side. This helps me to regulate my portions of milk and other liquids.

    I also have small ceramic cereal bowls which I use to "trick" myself into thinking I'm eating more food than I am (think: frozen yogurt!).... I totally agree that if it LOOKS like more food, it feels like more food.

  9. I agree! I often use a mug to eat cereal and soups out of - I always go back for a little extra helping of seconds, but I tend to do that with big bowls too, so this works great!

  10. I went out and bought smaller sized dinner plates to start. I also try to fill my plate with mostly veggies first, then add other foods. Like you, I use smaller bowls when serving up treats such as yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, dry cereal, etc. And I don't put the food on the dinner table anymore, either.

  11. Those are all excellent tips!

    I definitely use those bowls for Cheez-its otherwise the box is gone in a flash -LOL!

  12. I love my ramekins. The yogurt with the blueberry preserve looks delicious! :)

  13. Usually, i know my limit when it comes to food. I don't really have a strategy. I'll usually just put enough on my plate to sort of get me lightly stuffed. I need to get me some ramekins

  14. I use the little clear custard cups for ice cream, both for me and for the kids. It's just the right amount for all of us. I also use a smaller plate, divide sandwiches and wraps in half, measure things I'm not sure about, and always keep an eye on it.

    You really can eat anything you want it you are mindful of the portions! Great post Andrea!!

  15. great tips will tweet them and love the little dishes

  16. I am with you! Portion sizes are my problem, too. Especially with a good amount of exercise, I do require quite a bit of food! But even I have to constantly remind myself that even too much of a good thing isn't a good thing. My husband is a "lucky one" and I just can't "get away" with the same as him. It's tough, but I think it makes me a stronger nutrition professional to have to "walk the walk". Great post!

  17. I love the idea of these little ramekins for keeping portions under control. Wonderful post!

  18. Anonymous11/21/2009

    Great strategy. I eat with small bowls, plates and small spoons and forks as well. Mini everything for me. =)

    Great tip that you shared.

  19. Anonymous11/21/2009

    I don't purposely control portion sizes because I like big meals and no or small snacks. But I do find something interesting, when I don't do portion control at all (eating with my family in chinese style, with many dishes to share) I actually listen to my body better, because I know I don't have to finish any plate, so I stop when I'm full.
    Glad to know that these tricks are working for you! :)

  20. I need to cut out the 1st paragraph in your post and stick it to my forehead. Portion control shall be my goal for the upcoming week!

  21. awesome post andrea. i eat all healthy foods also.. and portion control was my downfall. too much of a good thing WILL make you fat. haha. i love the idea of the ramekins for cereal and ice cream~my two weaknesses. thanks for the ideas!! and once again props on the smaller jeans!

  22. I'm horrible at portion control. I do have a food scale that I religiously weigh food on; but on my giant sized plates it looks like nothing... *sigh*

    Perhaps I need to go buy those bowls! (And start actually using my salad plates.)

  23. Great post! I think for me it's just weighing. Weighing all ingredients, portioning it out evenly and then eating that and nothing more! I LOVE your bowl idea though - and they're cute!

  24. Andrea, the ramekins are a terrific idea for portion control, plus they make food look so cute! When I was trying to lose weight, I found that it was helpful to have miso soup as a starter to dinner, because the liquid and protein was filling.