There are a ton of trendy diets, supplements and products that claim to boost your health and promise to help you reach your fitness goals. But most of them are just marketing gimmicks aimed to promote weight loss in the most unhealthy way possible or give you empty calories under the guise of nutrition. One of the most trusted ways of maintaining your health, losing weight or gaining strength is to practise portion control. But how does it work, what are the benefits and how do you do it effectively?

TC46 connected with Senior Nutrition Therapist Minal Shah from Fortis Hospital, Mumbai to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about portion control. Here, she shares tricks and tips to exercise portion control and how it is related to calorie control which can help you with weight loss.

1. What are the most common ways to exercise portion control?

Portion control is restricting food to a healthy amount. Using a measuring spoon or cups, smaller plates, or hand as a portion guide are the most common means to ensure portion control. Portion control can also be carried out by comparing it with daily items like lemon-sized, tennis ball-sized and more tangible objects to measure and control the quantity of food you eat.

2. Does portion control really work?

Portion control does help control the quantity of food you consume. Research indicated that people eat more food when offered larger portions in the plate. Controlling the amount of food is vital for all to control weight, for those trying to achieve and maintain weight loss, controlling blood sugar for those suffering from diabetes, restricting fat intake for calorie control and for patients with heart ailments, also to maintain the balance between the vital nutrients in the diet based on the intake of fruits and vegetables.   

3. Can you lose weight just by cutting portion size?

Cutting portion size does help in reducing the calorie intake and with weight loss eventually. But a common myth is that portion control gives you the liberty to eat anything you like. Points to remember would be portion control alone might not be sufficient, what is included in the diet also plays an important role. For example, if carbohydrates are to be restricted to a small cup as per the diet plan, refined carbohydrates are still not recommended. Similarly, if fat is to be restricted to one teaspoon per day, healthy fats like MUFA of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are preferred and saturated fat or trans-fat are still to be restricted. So, cauliflower over potatoes and avocado spreads over butter.

4. Does eating smaller portions shrink your stomach? How are calorie control and portion control related?

One can shrink their stomach size only after bariatric surgery. Eating smaller size re-sets the appetite and satiety to a lesser intake if the diet plan is followed over a period. Portion control helps reduce the actual quantity of food consumed. The food choices must be made wisely to achieve calorie control. For example, nuts are calorie-dense and high in fat, with right portion control including nuts ensures a good source of healthy fats without exceeding the calorie intake. Another example can be of banana and elaichi banana, the simplest difference between the two is the size of the fruit. Since elaichi banana is practically half of the regular banana it kind of fits the portion control for calorie control target. 

4. What is a safe and beneficial way of practising portion control?

Here are some tips to exercise portion control safely and make it a part of your life in an organic way:  

  • The best way to adhere to portion control is including smaller plates and dinnerware. Smaller plates appear full even with a smaller portion, people feel satisfied even with lesser quantity of food.
  • Another easy and beneficial way of practicing portion control is using your plate as guide. Vegetables should fill half the plate, protein should be ¼ of the plate. Hand can also be used as a guide for portion control. For instance, a fist-sized portion of rice, a palm-sized portion for protein, a fingertip-sized portion of fat and so on.
  • Also, eat more of low calorie, high fibre and high protein food items which give you more quantity in the portion within the calorie restriction and higher satiety, thus improving adherence to the diet. Restrict the quantity of foods like butter, fried snacks, cheese as with smaller portion the calorie intake is moderate with reduced nutrient intake and lesser satiety.  

5. In what ratio should you eat carbohydrates, proteins and fats to lose weight using the portion control method?

Carbohydrates would measure up to one-quarter of the plate, protein another quarter of the plate, fats would be the tip of a finger and half of the plate should be filled with vegetables. Carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates. 

6. How does eating from specific dinnerware/serve ware and avoiding direct consumption from packages help with portion control?

Opting for a smaller dinnerware makes a smaller portion size look filling. If a bigger dinner plate is used, the quantity of food accommodated in the plate exceeds the portion, people tend to eat more with larger plates. Using a tall thin glass instead of a regular glass also helps restricts the quantity of beverage and provides satiety.

Similarly, if one eats directly from the package portion control is lost. One easily exceeds the quantity of food consumed. Portioning food from the package in a serving bowl ensures the quantity control. One should also ensure that second or third serving should be avoided for the same.    

7. What tips would you share for taking up the portion control method the right way?

  1. Another way to check the portion size without any measuring tools is by using your hand. A palm-sized serving for proteins, a fist or two fist-sized serving for vegetables, a cupped hand portion of carbohydrates, a thumb-sized serving of fat.
  2. When eating out, one can either ask for a smaller serving or eat what is required and take the rest as takeaway. 
  3. It is not necessary to finish whatever one has on the plate even though according to Indian culture, it is said to be disrespectful to waste food. You could simply start with taking small portions into your plate and taking more only if you’re still hungry.
  4. Eat slow and avoid distraction to identify the signs of satiety and stop eating. 
  5. Identify the portion size, set a marker suitable for you and stick to the portion size by whatever means possible to ensure the best results. 

And remember, a  detailed diet plan is an individualized approach. One size does not fit all in terms of calorie restriction and the composition of a meal can be determined only after understanding the person’s current nutritional intake and then making suitable changes to achieve weight loss.

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