Simple Tricks to Control Portion Sizes


One of the easiest ways to drop a few pounds is to cut back on the amount of food you eat.  Over the last 30 years, portion sizes (like our waistlines) have continued to increase.  It happens so gradually that you don’t even realize that the food on your plate should be feeding two people instead of one.  Do you remember the blueberry muffins you ate as a kid?  They were half the size of the monster muffins you see in coffee shops today.

So how do you make subtle adjustment to your daily routine to make sure you’re eating the right amount of food?  Let’s break it down by meals and snacks:

  1. Breakfast: Use a smaller bowl for your oatmeal, cereal or yogurt and don’t go back for seconds.  Many people make the mistake of keeping the box of cereal next to their bowl so they can keep filling it up.  After you fix your breakfast, put everything away.  If you want a breakfast sandwich, skip the meat and choose English muffins over biscuits or croissants.  And just say NO to greasy hash browns.
  2. Lunch: It’s really hard to pick up a sandwich for lunch these days because they’re so big–and they’re often served with fries like this club sandwich with a gazillion calories!   If you have a favorite place where you can get half of a sandwich and a cup of soup, that’s great.  But eating out for lunch can get really expensive.  The best solution is to bring a sandwich, homemade soup or a salad from home.  Leftovers from dinner are usually a good choice as well.  Ditch the snack chips and sodas—they’re both full of all kinds of stuff your body doesn’t need.
  3. Dinner: Dinner may seem like a hard meal to scale back on—but if you think about it, it’s easy. Before you serve your plate, think about how much food would make you feel satisfied without making you feel stuffed.  Then serve your plate in the kitchen.  Unless you have company, there’s no reason to put serving bowls on the table.  It makes it too easy to take “just a little more”.  Using a smaller plate works wonders because your brain sees a full plate of food—even if it’s not as much food.  Once you’ve made this a habit, you won’t even miss the extra food on your plate.  If you go out to dinner, skip the bread and ask for a “to-go” box with your meal.  You’ll have a ready-made lunch for tomorrow.
  4. Snacks: A mid-morning or afternoon snack is a good way to get you through the day and help keep you from feeling famished by dinner time.  There are all kinds of great snacks—nuts, cheese, fruit, hummus—and there are bad snacks.   But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a piece of chocolate in the afternoon.  It simply means you choose the fun sized Snickers bar (76 calories) instead of a regular Snickers bar (280 calories).  And try to avoid snacking after dinner.  If you find yourself wanting a snack in the evening, try to figure out why you want it.  I’m almost certain it’s not because you’re hungry (unless you are working a night shift!)

Other things to remember:

  • Slow down. The faster you eat, the less you get to enjoy your meal.   Have you ever noticed that food tastes better when someone else cooks for you? This is probably because you’re slowing down and actually paying attention to what you’re eating.  So slow down and enjoy.
  • Drink water before and during your meal.  It will help you feel full quicker.  Plus, our bodies need a lot of water.
  • Crowd your plate with lots of fresh vegetables. You may have some bad memories of boiled vegetables from when you were a kid—I know I do (sorry mom).  But there are a lot of delicious recipes that combine great ingredients (like ginger, garlic and lemongrass) with healthy veggies.

Everything we do is a habit so why not choose good habits and healthy portions sizes?

Please share your good habits with us and tell us how you avoid over-sized portions.  Thanks!

Happy Meals,



  • Chris
    November 30, 2010

    The Cyndi Russell 10-bite diet is a great way to regulate this!!

    • November 30, 2010

      Absolutely! It works for you every time! You should write a book–see you on Ellen! 🙂

    • Cyndi
      December 2, 2010

      Chewing your bites for a long time will help you feel fuller. Sipping water during the meal helps too. Great article! We should be teaching this in schools across the country.

      • December 2, 2010

        What a great idea! I LOVE IT! A program to teach portion control for kids….go for it Cyndi! 🙂

  • Carol
    November 30, 2010

    Hi Molly,
    Just saw a tv show with women “inventors” trying to get their product on the shopping network. One woman had plates with a design that actually delineated food portions. Thought that was an awesome idea. Also – try using salad plates rather than typical dinner plates for your meal. That’s the typical size of plates in the Ukraine and there aren’t many obese people there!

    • December 1, 2010

      Hi Carol:

      What a clever idea! If you find a website for the plates, please share with us. Once people get used to eating appropriate portion sizes, it’s easy to make it a healthy habit for life. Thanks for sharing…

  • Christine Rothberg
    November 30, 2010

    I like the 10 bite idea, Cyndi. My biggest problem is that I like to snack as I make dinner, then I eat dinner. I now take out a bag of small carrots and nosh on them while I cook.

    I also take big bags of snacks, like pretzels, and put them in small serving size baggies for the week. Not eating out of the bag controls my portion size and they are easy to grab on the run. C

    • December 1, 2010

      Hey Christine:

      Are you snacking while making dinner because you’re really hungry or because you’re bored? Are you eating a mid-afternoon snack? That may help prevent feeling “starving” by dinner time. But carrots are good…and creating smaller portions is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

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