The LeanWithLesley Guide to Portion Control

When thinking about portion control, many people associate it with weight loss. While an understanding of portion control can assist people to change their body composition, it’s also useful for anyone who is trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

Knowing how much you should eat does more than help to prevent overeating. Portion control is important for making healthy choices that will provide the energy and nutrients to fuel your workouts.  

What is portion control?

Portion control is a way to ensure you’re eating enough nutritious food or not overeating. A good understanding of portions comes from knowing how much of a particular food will satisfy you and provide enough energy until your next meal. A “portion” is more of a rough guide, while a “serving” is a specific amount. 

For most people, there’s no reason to measure out all of your food servings once you understand the correct portion size for you and your goals. With practice, you will learn how much food to eat and how it makes your body feel. Then eating the right amount will become a habit.

Portion control is a way to eat the right amounts of each food, helping you reach your health and fitness goals.

Does portion control mean counting calories?

No! LeanWithLesley's Nutrition Plan does not recommend counting calories — instead we provide advice about a balanced diet containing a range of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats and natural sugars. It's an easy to follow food plan, with simple delicious healthy recipes, a portion chart and we include all food types.

So what does a healthy meal look like on a plate?

Ideally, a portion controlled plate will include:

  • Around half filled with vegetables and salad
  • One quarter should contain good quality protein
  • The remaining quarter should contain complex carbohydrates and a small serving of healthy fats. 

Remember that flexibility is important when it comes to healthy eating! Some days you will have more "serves" from a particular food group; other days you might have less. It might help to look at what you’re eating over a whole week, rather than a day or two.

Tip: We often recommend keeping a food diary for 3 days in the week for a couple of weeks so that you can become familiar with your eating patterns and make really beneficial tweaks and changes. Remember, write up your diary as you eat or drink, don't wait until the end of the day, when it's likely you may forget.

How to figure out the correct portion sizes for you

Now that you know how your meals should be broken down, the next step is working out your portion sizes. 

A “serving size” is an amount set by Dietary Guidelines. A serve identifies the amount of different types of foods that have roughly the same amount of nutrients and energy.

This is quite different to your portion size! A portion is an amount you eat in a particular snack or meal and depends on how hungry you are as well as the type of meal you are eating. 

For example, a serving of grains is one slice of bread. If you have a sandwich for lunch, you might have two slices or two servings of bread — this is your portion size. 

Your portion size will depend on your height, level of activity and other factors affecting your metabolism. 

As you become more familiar with serving sizes and appropriate portions, you can make healthy food choices without needing to follow a prescriptive eating plan every day.

Keep an eye out for our next challenge on LeanWithLesley.com We have had phenomenal success helping our community to reach their individual fitness goals.  

Tips for portion control

Many restaurants, cafes and food manufacturers have “up-sized” the serving you receive to make it look like you are getting better value. Knowing your correct portion sizes can help you to eat a healthy, balanced diet without going hungry or overeating. 

Here are some tips to help you choose the right portion sizes:

1. Use smaller dinnerware

Have you ever noticed that the plates used in cafes and restaurants are often huge? If you’ve been brought up to clear your plate at every meal, this can lead you to eating more than you actually need. Using smaller dinnerware at home can help you feel satisfied eating a full plate of food.

2. User your hands as a serving guide

Rather than carrying around cup measures and teaspoons, you can estimate a portion size based on your hand size. Your hand is proportional to your body, making this a useful guide. 

  • Your palm is the size of a portion of good quality protein
  • Your fist is approximately the size of a portion of wholemeal rice, pasta or potatoes
  • Your cupped hand indicates a portion of vegetables & salad
  • A portion of healthy fats should be the size of your thumb

3. Eat slowly and mindfully

Remove distractions, such as TV, when eating. Try slowing down your eating pace by putting down your cutlery while you are chewing. You could even sip water between mouthfuls to slow your eating pace. This allows time for your body to give feedback and let you know if you’re actually full. 

Concentrate on how the food smells and looks, explore how it tastes and feels in your mouth, and how it feels in your stomach. When you eat mindfully, you may enjoy the food more, and end up eating less to feel satisfied.

4. Start meals with a glass of water 

Sometimes when we think we are hungry we’re actually just thirsty!

Staying well-hydrated and starting meals with a glass of water helps to curb thirst disguised as hunger.

5. Serve yourself on a plate

When you serve yourself from communal dishes on the table or from a buffet, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten. When you serve your meal onto a plate, you can see your portions and assess if you have enough variety in each food group.

6. Include protein with every meal

Protein is more filling than other macro-nutrients, so including protein with each meal will help you to feel satisfied and fuller for longer after you finish eating.

Having a healthy mindset to nutrition means being flexible!

Understanding portion control is just one aspect of developing sustainable, healthy eating habits. With this knowledge, you can be comfortable eating in any environment, whether it’s cooking at home or Christmas dinner!

A balanced lifestyle means enjoying all kinds of food in moderation. Rather than categorising foods as “good” or “bad”, instead, view food as a source of nutrients and a central element of social connection — allow yourself to enjoy it.  

Do you have a healthy eating question? Ask our team in the comments below!

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