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Lose Weight by Controlling Your Portions: An Easy Guide to Portion Size

May 18, 2008
Portion control is one important key to successful weight loss. When you are able to get a good sense of what constitutes a portion size (and you can stick to that portion size), you'll have an easier time shedding those unwanted pounds. Here are some helpful tips and visual cues to help you keep your portion sizes in check.

Portion control is all about limiting how much you eat of a certain food. The first step is figuring out exactly how much a portion is.

Portions in this country have gotten out of control. The amount of food served at restaurants is sometimes two to three times as much as you actually need to eat. Use these visual cues and portion comparisons when you are preparing food or eating out: A regular portion of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards, or the palm of your hand. This equals 3 to 4 ounces of meat. When you consider that steaks are often served in 10 to 12 ounce portions, it becomes clear how out of control portions have become. A regular portion of grains, rice and pasta is one-half cup, or a handful size. A serving of cheese is about the same size as two dominoes, side by side.

When you are first working with portion sizes, invest in a good food scale and weigh your favorite foods to find out what a serving size really is. Or use a measuring cup when you are dishing food into a bowl. You may find, like I did, that you are actually eating double or even triple the amount of food that you think you are, especially with such foods as cereal and ice cream.

You can also make portion control easier for yourself by using a smaller plate. When you're at home, try eating from a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Instead of clearing a large plate of food, you'll clear a smaller one and still get the satisfaction of having cleaned your plate.

You can also control your portions by filling up on salad and other veggies before you start your main meal. The more vegetables you eat, the fuller you'll feel. If you start off a meal with some vegetable broth or a salad, you'll be less likely to eat a lot of the higher calorie food. (Just make sure to skip the fattening salad dressings.) This is a simple way to automatically reduce your portions without even realizing it. The key to this method is to consciously stop eating when you are full, or you'll make the mistake of eating as much as you used to.

If you eat a lot of snacks, try buying portion controlled snacks or making your own. Many companies now produce snack packs of crackers, cookies and other goodies in calorie-controlled portions. If you find these to be too expensive, you can also try to make your own. Look to the nutrition information of the side of the box of your favorite snack foods, and then portion out each of them into a ziploc bag. That way you can have your favorite treat without ruining your appetite or your weight loss efforts.

Remember that learning portion control is a habit that you'll need to develop over time. It's not always easy to change the way that you eat, but with persistence and patience you can begin to eat proportional amounts of the foods that you love and still lose weight.
About the Author
Jamie Jefferson writes for Momscape.com, where you'll find reviews and coupons for popular online diet plans, including Diets to Go . You can also see her online diet recommendation.
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