9 Health Benefits of Portion Control
Portion control means something different to many people, as our idea of portion control varies based on our experiences, culture, age, weight, medical condition, expectations, norms, activity level, geographical location, environment, and other variables. For instance, portion control in London can be drastically different than in New York.
In simple terms, portion control means eating just the right amount of food to keep you healthy without overeating, regardless of your circumstances. Often, portion control can be equated to calorie counting, where a person keeps track of their calories for a specific health reason.
Most people who practice portion control, instinctively, even without knowing, regulate their calories. Portion control can often be confused with serving size, which is the standardised amount of food you eat, often based on a food nutritional label. Serving size does not often take individual variables in mind and is not always adjusted for the differences in individuals.
In an ideal world, your serving size should be the right portion size so you don’t have to worry about portion control to eat just the right amount of food for your body. However, most times, the serving size is smaller than you really need, hence the need to practice portion control for our health.
While it would be great to think that everyone has a good idea of how to practice portion control, it’s unfortunately not the case. In recent times, our plates have gotten bigger, and we eat more quantities of food at home and in restaurants. People expect to eat and even have leftovers at restaurants, which has prompted restaurants to increase their serving sizes to accommodate their clients’ needs and expectations.
This has in turn lead to portion distortion, which is basically a perception that a large serving of food is appropriate and normal to be eating at one seating.
1. Healthy Weight
A majority of people eat in smaller quantities to help them lose or maintain their body weight. Eating a balanced meal with proper serving sizes and proportions can help you indirectly count your calories, control your weight, and keep it within a healthy range.
For those who want to build muscle mass or gain weight, portion-controlled foods, including precooked meals, also help provide the right amount of macronutrients and micronutrients critical for muscle mass.
2. Better Sleep
Nothing disrupts your sleep more than a heavy meal, especially foods eaten late at night or right before your bedtime. Eating with portion sizes in mind maintains the right balance of nutrition while giving the body just enough food to digest without difficulties. Over-eating with no regard for portion control can lead to indigestion, which can affect the overall quality of sleep.
3. Easier Digestion
Many of us have been victims of indigestion and post-meal discomfort. At its largest, an empty adult stomach spans up to six inches wide and twelve inches long. When we eat or drink more than our stomach and body can handle, our stomach is stretched beyond its normal volume and digestion is slowed down, resulting in bloating, cramping, and general abdominal discomfort. Eating the right portion sizes of food is easier for the body to process and digest.
4. Increased Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem
Maintaining portion control can boost our mental and physical health in numerous ways. When we eat the right amount of food, including superfoods and foods that boost our immunity, we are not only likely to maintain a normal body weight, which will improve our energy, but we will also boost our self-confidence and self-esteem. Studies show that a balanced diet can contribute to improved self-confidence and esteem and lead to fewer emotional problems.
5. Balanced Blood Sugar
Eating a well-balanced meal with the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat can stabilise your blood sugar and keep it within normal acceptable ranges.
Just like excessive dietary carbohydrates is known to have an impact on blood glucose, excessive dietary fat also has a negative impact on how insulin functions in the body and can also adversely affect blood sugar.
When you eat the correct portion of food, glucose release is more controlled and within the normal limits your body can handle.
6. Increased Energy
When we eat large portions, especially food high in fat or sugar, our body gets a message to start the digestive process, which involves your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestines, and large intestines. This process of digestion requires time and energy, and the more you eat, the more energy your body will need to go through the digestion process and the slower and more sluggish you will be. Eating portion-controlled, premade meals, precooked foods makes it easier to avoid overeating and stressing out the body.
Portion Control Tips
1. The plate trick
Use your plate as a tool to control your food intake and as a guide for portion control. Always use a smaller dish, as that tricks the mind into thinking you’re eating a larger serving. Studies suggest that the size of plates, cups, and eating utensils does matter for portion control. The bigger the portion control plate the smaller the food will appear, and thus the likelihood to overeat as the brain thinks the portion size is little. A study published by the Society of Nutritional Education and Behavior showed that people can eat from 31% more food to 77% more food when using a large bowl compared to a smaller bowl.
Apart from using a smaller plate, also try dividing the plate into portions with dedicated sections for veggies, complex carb, proteins, etc. Since vegetables are less caloric but greater in volume, fill most of your plate with veggies to reduce your portion intake. Of course, everyone’s nutritional needs vary based on their individual situations, so create a personalised portion control guide that works for your unique nutritional needs and helps you learn how to portion control.
2. Drink Water first
The truth is that water can be filling, so drinking water prior to eating is a good portion control method as you will be less hungry before you start your own meal. Studies show that drinking water prior to a meal helps reduce food intake and leads to weight loss over time.
Sometimes, we mistake thirst for hunger, so drinking water first is also a guide for our body to differentiate hunger from thirst. Alternatively, for those that do not like to drink water before a meal, drinking water immediately after a meal still increases a feeling of fullness and reduces overall intake of food, helping you towards learning how to portion control.
3. Record what you Eat
Keeping a portion control diary of what you eat can be time-consuming; however, most people underestimate what they eat in a day, and without a good visual record of your food intake, it is easy to overeat. A study showed that up to 21% of people denied having eaten more food, showing that we are often unaware of how much food we actually do eat.
Recording what you eat forces you to take a look at your calories as well as nutritional value of food. Self-monitoring helps in portion control size as well as maintaining a healthy weight. It also helps you get a sense of what constitutes a correct portion size and helps control mindless eating, which can often occur when we are not paying attention to what we are actually eating.
Take it up a notch and record how you feel after you eat. By noting how your body feels after eating, you can begin to get a sense of the right portions for your body. For instance, if a certain quantity of food gives you indigestion and nausea, you’ll be cued into the fact that that amount of food may be more than your body can handle, thus, you can start working on reducing your portion size.
4. Be Aware of the Environment
No doubt that your environment can control what you eat and how much you eat. Environment plays a direct role in portion control. Lighting, socialisation, plates, decor, drinks, conversations, and other aspects of an environment can influence your portion control.
Sounds, smells, colours, temperature, and the general ambience of the environment can alter food intake. Even the amount of food someone else has on their plate can influence your perception of what is normal. If you’re at a party and everyone around you fills their plates with food, the natural tendency is for your brain to think it’s okay to do the same, forgetting about portion control. Conversely, if everyone around you was eating the bare minimum serving size, you will be likely to follow suit.
5. Eat Slowly and Steadily
Take it easy and slow! Most of us tend to eat so fast as we’re always in a hurry to get somewhere, especially if you live in big cities like London where everyone is always on the move. It can take the brain up to 15-20 minutes to realise that you are full, and when you slow down, your brain picks up on your satiety. When you eat quickly, your brain doesn’t catch up with how your stomach feels, so you might end up overeating before you realise you’re full.
A clinical study that evaluated thirty healthy women up to thirty years old showed that eating slowly helped to “maximize satiation and reduce energy intake within meals” – thus helping them naturally portion control. Eating slowly also leads to a better meal experience as well as awareness of portion sizes without the feeling of being rushed.
Apart from eating slowly, chewing your food multiple times before swallowing reduces the amount of food intake up to 14.8%, thereby controlling portion sizes and controlling weight gain. Meal intake is directly related to chewing rate – the faster you chew, the more you’ll eat – and this is directly associated with weight gain.
6. Have an Idea of Appropriate Portion Sizes
We rely on our senses to guide us on how we much of each food group we should eat. But that might be biased based on our past food experiences. Research shows that relying on our judgement might not always work when determining portion control; we also need to be aware of what the food recommended guidelines are based on our individualised nutritional needs.
We should be aware of what really constitutes a portion size, even if we don’t always count our calories or measure our meals. Investing in measuring devices that can accurately tell us what a cup of rice looks like, what a serving of cereal should be, what a tablespoon of almond butter looks like, etc., would not only allow us to have a firmer grip on what we should be eating for portion control at home, but also allows us to develop a deep understanding of what these portion sizes actually should look like so we are more aware of our food choices when we eat outside of our homes like in a restaurant.
7. Be aware of Emotional Eating
It goes without saying that eating when we are sad, depressed, unhappy, anxious, or under other sorts of emotional stress can be comforting, and rightly so, but be aware not to turn to food anytime you have a bad day. When we eat because of depression, we tend to not care how much we’re eating and are mostly binging on the food. This is probably okay for a few days, but if we do have sustained emotional distress, sooner or later, the extra calories past what we should be ingesting will cause other problems for our body.
Although it may be hard to avoid that tub of ice cream in your fridge when you’re down, try distracting yourself with other activates like taking a walk, talking to a friend, watching TV, or anything else that can be emotionally satisfying and could be your answer to how to stop emotional eating. And if you do need food to make you feel better, be aware of some of the tips that can help you with portion control so you avoid overeating.
8. Eat off Children’s Menu
You don’t need to have children to eat off their menu. Granted most restaurants might not allow you to order from the little one’s menu if you don’t have a young one with you; however, you can still ask for a smaller version of your food. Or order off the appetizer menu instead of getting a large main dish. And if you’re dining out with someone, consider splitting a main meal with them.
All these tactics will not only help you with portion control but will also prevent overeating and over indulgence. In an effort to keep up with the competition and retain customers, restaurants typically serve larger quantities of food. A study found that fast food portions have increased by up to five times compared to the original sizes.
Some restaurants serve up to eight times more food than an average portion size, thus contributing to overweight and portion distortion. When possible, stay away from buffet-style restaurants where you serve yourself, as the natural tendency is to overeat.
9. Order Pre-Made Foods
Perhaps one of the best ways to control your portions and still eat healthy is to work with a good meal prep company for healthy, perfectly portioned meals.
At Vanda’s Kitchen, our skilled and passionate chefs make our meals in small batches in our London Kitchen. All our meals are carefully designed to provide the right portion sizes comprising of protein, healthy fats, carbs, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Our meals come with real images so you see what your food will look like; descriptions so you have a full idea of what to expect; ingredient listing so you know exactly what you’re eating; and nutritional information so you know how many calories you are eating.
Our meals are never frozen and are fresh for up to 4 days when stored according to directions. By working with a London food delivery company that delivers fresh cooked and healthy meals to your home or address of choice in London, you can still practice portion control without compromising your health and fitness goals.