When you think about eating in a balanced, healthy way, you most likely focus on the foods you're eating and what they're made of. However, an integral part of balanced eating is the amount of food you're consuming, or what's better known as portion control. Portion sizes can be the determining factor of healthy eating, so here are some portion control tips to help you stay on track.

Why Portion Control Matters

Portion control can make all the difference when it comes to weight control and overall wellness. One way to look at food is as a medium for getting the vitamins and minerals you need to be as healthy as possible, and another way to look at food is as a means to survival. Some foods are full of micronutrients that are essential for optimal health, and other foods merely provide you with energy and the calories needed to keep you functioning. However, if you eat too many calories, regardless of their source, your body will store that energy and you'll gain weight. So regardless of whether a food is considered healthy or not, you need to have knowledge of appropriate portion sizes in order to avoid overwhelming your body with calories.

Different Ways to Exercise Portion Control

There are many ways to determine portion sizes, but for the sake of simplicity, here are a few of the most straightforward methods:

  • The Plate Method: Both the United States Department of Agriculture and Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health have created illustrations of what a properly portioned, balanced meal should look like. Your plate should consist of one-fourth protein (meat, eggs, poultry, tofu, beans, legumes, dairy, or cheese), one-fourth whole-grain carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, bread, rice, or other grain), and one-half fruits and vegetables. Assembling your snacks and meals with this in mind will not only help you manage portion sizes, but will also ensure that you're eating in a balanced manner.
  • The Hand Method: A common technique that's used to determine correct portion sizes is to simply use your hand as a guide. The circumference and width of your palm is about the same size as the amount of protein you should have per meal. The size of your closed fist is about the same size as the amount of vegetables you should be eating for each meal, and the same rule of thumb can be used to determine how many carbohydrates (whole grains or fruit) to incorporate into each meal.
  • The Label Method: Another place to look for guidance on portion sizes is the food label. The portion size specified on the nutrition label of a given food is usually an appropriate amount for most people. However, this method only works for foods that have a food label. For foods without a food label (fruits, vegetables, and artisan products) follow the aforementioned methods.

Integrating Portion Control Tips into Your Life

While portion control may be a difficult concept to initially learn and follow, rest assured that it will eventually become a habit. In addition to using one of the methods above, practice logical methods of managing your portions such as avoiding going back for seconds and using smaller-sized dishware. And where do sweets and treats fit into portion control? Try to limit these foods to no more than one palm-sized (even smaller, depending on the treat) portion per day.

If adopting reasonable portion sizes for you means eating less, know that you don't have to feel deprived. If you're feeling hungry while your body's adjusting to normal portion sizes, make sure to increase your water intake and eat healthy snacks between meals. If you're looking for more individualized guidance on portion sizes, seek the advice of a registered dietitian.

While grasping the idea of portion control can be difficult, the difference it will make on your health is worth the effort. By eating appropriate amounts of both healthy and less healthy foods, you'll be better able to manage your weight and feel good about your body.