Published On By Dimitar Marinov [MD, PhD]

Portion Control For Weight Loss

To lose weight, you may try to consume fewer calories than you burn. One way to do this is by eating smaller portions at each meal, which might help you lose weight faster.

The amount of food you put on your plate is your portion size. Your portion size may affect how many calories you eat and can impact your weight.

Portion control might help you avoid eating too much, which often happens without you noticing. It makes you eat mindfully by paying attention to when you’re hungry and when you’re full instead of just eating out of habit.

This article explains the importance of following portion control in your diet. It will also explore 12 helpful tips on how to use portion control to support your weight loss goals.

What Is Portion Control?

Portion control is a dietary approach to regulating the amount of food you consume in one sitting. Exercising portion control could help manage overall calorie intake, promote healthier eating, and support weight loss goals.

It may prevent overeating by limiting the amount of food served and consumed. This may reduce the likelihood of consuming excess calories, which might lead to weight gain. Unlike restrictive diets, portion control allows you to enjoy a variety of foods in moderation.

You could practice portion control by using simple approaches, such as smaller plates, measuring cups, and portion guides. These tools may help you visualize and control the amount of food you consume.

Proper portion control may ensure that you get a balanced intake of essential nutrients without consuming excessive amounts of any particular food. It could also help in managing your overall health and well-being.

The NIDDKD, or the Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, provides resources on how to plan caloric intake effectively for portion control. It provides guidelines and tools, such as:

  • The daily calorie requirements depend on your age, gender, activity levels, etc.
  • A Body Weight Planner Tool to help create your own dietary and physical activity plans
  • The MyPlate Plan to help you create a healthy eating plan based on your calorie needs

Importance Of Portion Control

Practicing portion control may help develop mindful eating habits. Paying attention to portion sizes could help you be more aware of your food choices and eating behaviors. It might help you take better control over your diet.

Consuming large portions, especially high-sugar foods, may cause blood sugar spikes. It may increase the risk of various health issues like diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. Portion control could help maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of such diseases.

Eating appropriate portion sizes may improve digestion by preventing the discomfort and bloating that often accompany overeating. Smaller, more manageable portions might help your digestive system to function more efficiently.

Proper portion control ensures that meals are balanced with the right proportions of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), promoting overall health.

It involves adhering to pre-determined portion sizes, which might reduce food waste. It may help you save money and also improve environmental sustainability by lowering the amount of food that ends up in landfills.

Tips To Use For Weight Loss With Portion Control

  1. Use A Smaller Plate

    Your typical portion sizes might appear larger when served on smaller plates, aiding in portion control. Using smaller plates for meals might prevent you from feeling deprived and also discourage overeating, potentially supporting weight loss efforts.

    A 2021 review examined the effectiveness of various portion control tools. It indicated that using smaller plates alongside smaller bowls or cutlery could result in reduced food intake.

    Larger bowls, plates, and utensils are associated with increased food intake, which may trigger overeating. Making a simple switch to smaller utensils may help reduce portion sizes, promote satiety, and contribute to better portion control practices.

  2. Ask for Less

    When ordering food at restaurants, you should ask for smaller portions of the requested meals. Here are some tips to do so:

    • Skip the extras: When placing an order, consider avoiding high-calorie extras like chips, fries, or bread that often accompany main dishes. Eliminating these add-ons may help reduce your overall calorie intake, supporting better portion sizes.
    • Take half to-go: If the restaurant serves large portions, don’t hesitate to ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal. Portion half of your dish before you start eating, which may provide a satisfying meal and help avoid overeating temptations.
    • Share with a companion: Sharing a meal with a family member or friend may be a great way to enjoy dining and limit portion sizes. Splitting an entree reduces the amount of food consumed, allowing you to sample different dishes without overindulging.
  3. Begin Your Meal With A Glass of Water

    Research suggests that drinking water before meals could help you consume fewer calories during the subsequent meal. Drinking water before a meal might increase feelings of fullness, possibly preventing you from consuming excess food.

    Often, you could mistake thirst for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking or larger meal portions. Drinking water before meals may help distinguish between hunger and thirst.

    Some studies suggest that drinking water might temporarily boost metabolism. The slight increase in metabolic rate might contribute to more calories burned within the day, supporting weight loss.

  4. Eat Slowly

    Slowing down your eating pace may help enhance portion control and reduce overall food intake. Eating more slowly gives the brain more window to signal feelings of fullness, helping prevent overeating.

    A 2019 study found that people who consumed food at a slower pace felt fuller and more satisfied after the meals. Such findings might indicate a potential link between eating speed and satiety.

  5. Understand Serving Sizes

    A serving size is the exact measure of the portion of food listed on a product’s label. Different products have different serving sizes, which may be listed as grams, ounces, cups, slices, pieces, or numbers.

    Serving sizes may help you give an idea about appropriate food portions, preventing excessive calorie intake. Following the recommended serving sizes may help you better track your caloric intake and make adjustments as needed.

    However, the serving sizes on labels may not always align with your caloric needs. Consulting a dietitian may provide personalized guidance on determining suitable portion sizes for your health goals.

  6. Measure Your Plate

    Specialized portion control plates are available that may visually represent how much of each food group should be on your plate.

    Research suggests that using portion control plates may help adjust your portion sizes. Visually dividing the plate into sections for different food groups might help you create balanced meals that contribute to weight loss goals.

    However, you could adopt the same principle without specialized plates through the following steps:

    • Plate Size: Take a plate around 9 inches in diameter to ensure appropriate portions.
    • Vegetables: Fill half of the plate with nonstarchy vegetables like broccoli and asparagus.
    • Proteins and Carbohydrates: Allocate a quarter of the plate to lean proteins like chicken and the remaining quarter to complex carbohydrates such as brown rice.
  7. Avoid Eating Directly Out of the Container

    When you eat straight from a food container, it could make you misjudge your food portions. It might make you overeat and cause difficulties in controlling your portions.

    Transferring food from containers onto plates may help you visualize portion sizes and prevent mindless eating. Storing food containers out of sight after serving could reduce the temptation to continue eating beyond a reasonable portion.

  8. Consider the 20-Minute Rule

    According to research, you should wait for at least 20 minutes before considering a second portion of a meal. The pause allows time for your body to process the food consumed and send signals of fullness to the brain.

    It takes time for the brain to register fullness after eating. The delay in satiety signals may cause you to consume more food than necessary if you do not allow this time gap.

    Following the 20-minute rule could encourage mindful eating, helping you tune into your body’s natural hunger cues. It might help reduce overeating episodes and even instances of emotional eating.

  9. Do not Double the Portions Of Carbohydrates

    Doubling the portion of carbohydrates in your meals may significantly increase your overall caloric intake. Research suggests that the ideal carbohydrate portion should be approximately a quarter of what is on the plate.

    When choosing carbohydrates, go for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. These food sources provide complex carbohydrates that have added fiber and nutrients, which may help prevent overeating.

    If you feel the need for an extra side of carbs, such as bread, consider reducing the serving of carbohydrates already on your plate. Instead of doubling up on carbs, ensure a balance of healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables to create a well-rounded meal.

  10. Use Hands to Measure

    You can measure food quantities with your hands, which may eliminate the need to use measuring cups or scales. To use your hands to measure meal portions, consider the following tips:

    • For proteins: Consider 1 hand-sized portion for proteins, such as chicken or fish
    • For carbohydrates: Aim for a portion size equivalent to the palm of your hand, such as for rice or beans
    • For Fruits: Consume 1 palm-sized portion of fruits
    • For Vegetables: 2 palm-sized portions of vegetables
    • For Cheese: Stick to 2 finger-size portions
  11. Use Measuring Cups

    Measuring cups help accurately portion your food intake and manage calorie consumption. There are specialized measuring cups designed for portion control. However, you may use any cup, mug, or container that measures a specific amount as part of a portion control plan.

    Using measuring cups may help you portion out specific amounts of food like fruits, grains, or liquids, supporting calorie control. The method eliminates the guesswork involved in estimating portion sizes, promoting healthier eating habits.

  12. Maintain a Food Diary

    You should maintain an honest record of food and beverage intake in your food diary or tracker apps. Mention a record of specific details, such as:

    • The quantity of food you eat during each meal
    • Types of foods ingested, including condiments and toppings
    • Emotional state at the time of eating
    • The context in which you eat (solo or with others)
    • Activities you do while eating, such as watching shows or surfing social media

    Recording such information in a food diary could help you identify patterns, triggers, and behaviors that may influence your food choices and portion sizes.

    A food diary might help promote self-awareness and accountability in managing food portions. It enables you to track your daily caloric intake, assess your nutritional choices, and monitor your progress toward weight loss goals.

    Consistently logging your dietary habits could help you make informed decisions about portion sizes, make necessary adjustments, and identify areas for improvement to achieve better portion control.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Could Portion Control Help Support Weight Loss?
    Portion control could help reduce your caloric intake and prevent overeating, supporting weight loss. It involves understanding serving sizes, using smaller dinnerware, and being mindful of eating habits to promote balanced nutrition and overall health.
  2. What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Portion Control?
    One common misconception is that portion control means restricting yourself from eating foods you enjoy. Instead, it’s about eating those foods in moderation and balancing them with healthier choices. Another misconception is that portion control is only necessary for weight loss when it’s actually important for overall health.
  3. Are There Specific Portion Control Tips for Success?
    Avoid eating from containers, serve food on plates, put containers away after serving, and visualize food portions. Following these tips may encourage mindful eating and support the success of your portion control efforts.
  4. How Can Portion Control Be Practiced When Eating Out?
    When dining out, opt for half portions, share meals, or avoid buffets to manage portion sizes. Drinking water before meals and eating slowly are some behavioral strategies that may promote portion control when eating out.
  5. Why Is Tracking Food Intake Important for Portion Control?
    Tracking food intake is vital for portion control as it provides awareness of consumption patterns. Monitoring your food portions could help you make informed decisions, prevent overeating, and maintain a balanced diet for overall health and weight loss.


Learning about portion sizes and making conscious choices about your food intake may support weight loss goals and overall health. Practicing portion control helps ensure your body receives essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients without excessive calories.

Practicing portion control may require you to make minor changes. These might include using smaller utensils, tracking serving sizes, maintaining a food diary, and practicing mindful eating.

Following portion control could help you achieve and maintain a healthier weight, improve physical appearance, and enhance your overall well-being. Portion sizes may vary based on your personal needs, but a good rule of thumb is to eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.

  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.

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