It’s no secret that portion sizes are growing, so it’s understandable if you’re struggling to figure out what a normal-sized meal should be. In fact, if you’re like most of us, you’ve probably had to stop and think about how many servings are actually in a given meal. But if you want to be healthy, you have to maintain some sort of portion control.
Here are some ways to recognize whether your portions have gotten out of hand, and tips to get them back in check:
Ask: Are you putting pressure on yourself to finish a meal, even after you’re full?
If the answer is yes, it’s time for some new perspective on how to gauge when you’re finished eating. Often, we grow up hearing how it’s wasteful to leave any food on the plate. But the fact is, it’s not going to waste if you’re getting leftovers to go or choose to eat it later. In fact, you’ll be making your meals way more economical. When it comes to eating after you’re actually full, don’t consider it a bad thing that you still on food on the plate.
Ask: Do you tend to feel sick after a meal because you’re overly full?
It can take up to 20 minutes for fullness signals to be transmitted and registered by the brain. If you find yourself getting up after a meal feeling uncomfortably stuffed, then this tip is for you. Aim to eat a little slower to give your brain time to catch up to your body in realizing you’re actually full. If it helps to chew slower, approach it that way, or try putting your fork down more frequently between bites. No matter your method, if you give your brain enough time to acknowledge that you are full, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
Ask: Are you always taking seconds, or thirds at family-style meals?
This is about letting visuals get in the way. When you have a ton of food in view, it’s easy to let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. Try dishing up a reasonable amount to start. This also helps you evaluate the nutritional content of the meal before digging in (i.e. you’ll have a sense of how many servings of veggies you have compared to carbs). Before reaching for more, take a pause and have a sip of water. Try to differentiate whether you’re reaching for another portion because you’re actually hungry, or simply reaching because it’s in sight and is also very tasty.
Ask: If you have kids, are you routinely eating what they leave behind?
This goes back to potentially wasting food, and if you have kids, you can bet they’re not focusing on this much. It’s tough to please a young palate, but that doesn’t mean your health needs to suffer. Try offering smaller servings to start to see if your child likes something before offering the entire meal. This means food won’t be going to waste just because it’s been touched but not eaten if they don’t like it. As much as possible, try to forgo the leftovers if you don’t need them. Even snacking here and there adds up, and it’s a difficult habit to break once you’ve started.