20 tips to help you prevent portion problems

20 tips to help you prevent portion problems

20 tips to help you prevent portion problems

Week 3 of nutrition month starts Monday, and the theme is “Prioritize Portion Size.” When it comes to healthy eating, how much you eat can be just as important as what you eat.

Some people tell me they have no idea how much they should eat at a meal. If that’s you, check out the Canadian Diabetes Association’s handy portion guide. With that as a general guide, tune into your body’s fullness signals. One of my favourite tools for this is the Hunger/Fullness scale. Print it and bring it to the kitchen table for a few days until you get the hang of it.

But here’s the best advice I can give you on portion control: Don’t rely on willpower! The tips below can help you eat less without having to think about it while you’re eating.

Size counts!

Larger portions, huge packages and bigger plates and bowls can all cause overeating. Set your table for portion-size success with these tips:

  1. 1. Use smaller, lunch-sized plates and bowls for meals. You’ll eat less but still feel satisfied.

    Which one has more cereal? If you said they're the same, you guessed it! They both contain 1 cup. Which one would be a more satisfying cup of cereal?

    Which bowl contains more cereal? If you said they’re the same, you guessed it! Which one would you be likely to mindlessly pour more cereal into?

  2. 2. Serve food, or have family members serve themselves, from the counter or the stove.
  3. 3. Keep serving dishes of vegetables on the table. If you’re still hungry, eat second portions of veggies.
  4. 4. Put large glasses of water on the table. You might even drink more water.

For more on plate size, watch this.

Manage munchies!

Keep treat-type snack foods out of sight so you’ll be less likely to nibble. Studies show you’re more likely to choose available, easily reached foods. Try these tips to make healthy choices easier:

  1. 5. Keep nourishing snacks (e.g. hardboiled eggs, cut up veggies, yogurt, nuts, whole grain crackers) on an eye-level shelf in the fridge or cupboards so something healthy is the first thing you see.
  2. 6. Put high-fat, high-sugar treats, such as cookies, into opaque containers at the back of the fridge or cupboard so they’re out of sight.
  3. 7. Clear kitchen counters of all food except for a bowl of fresh fruit for crunchy snacking.Vintage metal bowl with plums and apples over old wooden table. See sries

To check if your home is set up to make healthy choices easy, take this quiz.

Buy in bulk without bulking up!

Big packages and bulk items can be budget-friendly but a portion pitfall! Stockpiling large amounts of food can cause you to eat more, negating your cost savings and derailing your healthy-eating efforts. The bigger the package, the more you’re likely to eat. Try these tips:

  1. 8. Avoid buying club-size packages, unless it’s something you want to eat more of.

    Stockpile veggies, not veggie chips.

    Stockpile veggies, not veggie chips.

  2. 9. If you do buy in bulk, repackage food into small reusable containers.
  3. 10. Share buy-one-get-one deals with a friend to get the savings without extra food.
  4. 11. Put a snack portion into a small bowl instead of eating from the package. Eating from the package can lead to overeating.

For more tips to prioritize portion size, watch this.

Fuel up!

Finding yourself hungry too soon after eating meals or snacks? You might need to add more fibre- and protein-rich foods to your meals. Fibre helps fill you up and protein helps your energy last longer. Together, they deliver meal and snack satisfaction.

  1. 12. Fibre up. Choose more vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains (e.g. barley or oatmeal), ground flax, nuts and seeds, and pulses (e.g. lentils, black beans, chickpeas).
  2. 13. Put protein on your plate. Enjoy small portions of meat, fish, poultry or alternatives (eggs, pulses, tofu) and milk products.

For fantastic fibre-filled or protein-packed recipes, visit: www.cookspiration.com.

Bonus tips:

  1. 14. Downsize big portions when eating out: split an entrée, skip appetizers or share dessert.

    Individually wrapped snacks help with portion control

    Individually wrapped snacks help with portion control

  2. 15. Enjoy lunch away from desktop distractions so you don’t overeat.
  3. 16. Turn off screens during meals so you are less likely to eat mindlessly long after you are satisfied.
  4. 17. Add chickpeas, tuna, lentils, edamame or seeds to leafy green salads for a simple protein- and fibre-filled lunch.
  5. 18. Slow down when you eat. Put your fork down in between bites.
  6. 19. Buy individually wrapped treats, such as small squares of dark chocolate, to help with portion control.
  7. 20. Make your own snack packs by filling reusable bags with nourishing foods like roasted chickpeas, whole-grain cereal or veggies and fruit.

Still Eating More Than You Think You Should?

If you’ve done all of this to set yourself up with a healthy food environment, but still overdo it more often than you’d like, take a close look at other possible causes. Are you sleep-deprived, which can lead to food cravings? Has your relationship with food been harmed by chronic dieting? Does emotional eating play a role? Is it possible that you’re eating too little during the day, leading to real physical hunger? As you can see, figuring this out may not be simple, so consider recruiting a loved one to help you, or engaging the support of a healthcare professional.


If these tips resonate with you, I’d suggest picking just one — something easy — that you think will help you mindlessly eat less. Focus on doing that one thing for the rest of Nutrition Month, rather than trying to do it all at once. Once you’ve established one good new habit, then come back and think about something else.

Comments or questions? Jump over to the Sweet Spot Facebook page.

Adapted from The Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at: www.nutritionmonth2016.ca.

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