7 Ways to Downsize Your Portions

sxc.hu: colin broug

One of the best ways to reduce calorie intake, and ultimately lose weight, is to reduce your food portion sizes.

Research shows that people have a tendency to eat more when they are presented with larger portions. It’s as if we’re still programmed to follow mum’s advice to clean our plates.

The problem with this is that portion sizes have increased significantly in the past 20 years, particularly if you eat out frequently.

According to the National Institute of Health, the average blueberry muffin today contains about 500 calories. Twenty years ago, it would have contained 210… wow!

Typical pizza slices have ballooned from 500 calories in the 1980s, to 850 calories today.

It’s no wonder obesity has become such an epidemic.

Fortunately, knowledge is power — but, only if you choose to use it!

So, here are 7 ideas to downsize your portion sizes:

1. Drink water before each meal

Having a glass or two of water before your meals will help you to feel fuller, without adding any extra calories.

This will obviously help you to eat less at mealtimes, while still feeling satisfied.

2. Reduce your plate size

Using a smaller plate can help you to keep portion sizes realistic, so try using a salad plate for dinner and see how that feels for you.

You can even purchase plates which have been divided into appropriate portion sized sections, giving you a visual cue to the correct amount of food.

Another options is to make a mental division of your dinner plate before serving food out… One 1/2 of your plate should be filled with vegetables, fill a 1/4 with lean proteins or alternatives, and the final 1/4 with wholegrains.

3. Eat slowly

Don’t forget that it takes time for your brain to recognize when you are full.

So, eating slowly and taking the time to properly enjoy your food, gives your brain a chance to receive the appropriate signals from your digestive system to signal satiety.

Also, chew your food properly, and relax and enjoy your surroundings — sounds, smells, sights, etc. You may just find yourself eating less, and enjoying it more.

4. Don’t eat from the package

This is an absolute no-no! Never. Ever. Do. That.

When you eat directly from the pack, there’s simply no way to monitor how much you’ve eaten, and most people end up eating way more than they realize.

This is a simple one to solve.

All you need to do is take one serving out of the bag, or box, and set it on a plate, or in a bowl, so that you can see exactly how much you are munching and stop before it’s too late.

5. Don’t eat in front of the television or computer

In fact, I’ll go a bit further with this one and say, don’t eat anywhere except at a table, when you can sit down and be mindful about what you are eating.

If you eat while watching TV, surfing the net, or even reading, it takes your focus away from the food, so overeating is inevitable.

And, although it’s tempting to snack away without paying much attention to the amount you’re eating, it also reduces the enjoyment you get from your food.

So, it’s much better to set aside time specifically to enjoy your food, and then continue on with your day.

6. Choose smaller portions

We all need to eat away from home at times, so when you do, just choose the smallest portion size available, eat slowly, and enjoy each bite.

Restaurants are probably the biggest offenders when it comes to portion distortion, but smaller sized meals are still satisfying, without adding to your waist-line.

Note: remember the plate proportions I mentioned above (#2), for getting your portion sizes right.

7. Eat nutrient rich foods

If you feel the need for a larger portion, fill your plate with mostly vegetables or salad, and enjoy a smaller portion of those higher calorie foods — no one said you can’t have a little!

When you make these nutrient dense foods your go-to choice, you will automatically be eating less… think about it, it’s difficult to overeat on broccoli or salad, isn’t it?

The good news about all of this is, that you don’t have to feel like you’re starving yourself to achieve a significant calorie reduction.

It’s a matter of teaching yourself to become more mindful about your eating habits, and eating just enough to feel satisfied, but no more.

The bonus is that eating mindfully helps you get more enjoyment from your meals, without feeling like you’re making a huge sacrifice.

So, what are your tips for downsizing your portion sizes?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

John W. Zimmer November 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Melanie, You mum and my mom must have known each other! Cleaning the plate was a priority. I like the idea of just putting less on the plate to start with because for whatever reason, I have to finish my plate.
.-= John W. Zimmer´s last blog ..National Debt Dog and Pony Show =-.


Melanie November 13, 2010 at 10:29 am

Definitely a good idea John. Then wait a few minutes after you’ve finished before going for seconds :)


diet and exercise comfort November 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

I love your site, I’m glad I visited it.
I have linked your site with mine.
Please do your best to update your site.
Thank you!
.-= diet and exercise comfort´s last blog ..Weight loss-Dietary supplements-Diet food =-.


Melanie November 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

Thank you!


peter konecny November 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Hi Melanie. I like your site…seems more real than most. I will be starting a blog soon and have identified yours as one to possibly follow. One comment though, I don’t agree with “drinking water before meals” to help cut portions in your 7 Ways to…article. Water actually gives me the ability to eat more and I have seen people in eating contest drink water prior to competion to stretch their stomachs. Peter


Melanie November 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

Hi Peter,
I see your point, but wouldn’t you need to drink an awful lot of water before it would stretch your stomach like those in eating contests?


Peter November 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Maybe so for professional eaters, but I am on the thin side and a few glasses of water before eating help me eat more.



Melanie December 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

So I suppose we can conclude that everyone is different in that case? :-)


Anita November 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

Great advice to follow for each meal. I think one of the biggest barries for people to ‘cross’ is the – “you don’t have to clean your plate” :)

Hard to follow especially if the meall is tasty.

If I may add Melanie, I also like the – eat until you’re 80% full – rule. Although this one comes only with building awareness of how full IS 80%.

Also – about #1 – there’s a lot of different (opposing) info about this one. Some nutrtionists say you shouldn’t drink too much liquids with your meals as it dilutes the digestive juices. I am of the opinion that if artificially filling up on water can actually fill you up quicker (as you say), but the downside of that is that you’ll get hungrier sooner, as you’re taking in less calories.

What do you think about the dijestive juices dilution, is it just a story?

Thank you for the great advice.
.-= Anita´s last blog ..TRX Trainer Workout – 16 min Super HIIT =-.


Melanie November 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

Hi Anita,
I also like the 80% rule. I really hate the feeling of getting up from the table absolutely stuffed to bursting. Any suggestions for how to teach people what 80% fullness would feel like? :-)

On the digestive juices query, there is little or no scientific evidence in support of this belief. Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Michael Picco, says drinking water with a meal can help improve the body’s digestion. He also says that water helps the digestive system function correctly by working to break down food in the stomach.

Another option for reducing total calorie intake, are high-moisture foods — studies show that eating foods like soup, rather than drinking water with or before a meal do an even better job of reducing the amount of food eaten. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, eat a bowl of soup before your main course. One study found that doing this can reduce overall calorie intake by 16%. This is also why you should eat lots of vegetables and fruits with meals, or as snacks, since they are high-moisture foods, and can help with weight control. I should write an article on this :-)


arina nikitina November 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Hello Mel!

My piece on this post would be like a sum of all your wonderful tips. It’s always having a small plate that doesn’t get invaded by anything unhealthy, just veggies and real nutritious stuff, all eaten between 30-45 minutes. Apart from the lukewarm glass of water before every meal, I have another glass in between the meals. The drinks in between is like to clear my mouth of the taste so I could savor once again the food like I just started eating. :)

Keep posting, Mel! I know there are so many peeps out there wanting more cool info on healthy diets and meals and all that you write about. Great job!

.-= arina nikitina´s last blog ..Who Makes You Laugh =-.


Mrs. Life November 25, 2010 at 2:28 am

I’ve been using plates that are portioned for quite a year now. I was gaining weight and I guess it’s time to focus on my eating habit. Downsizing my food portions was quite hard to do but I guess one must have discipline too! It’s been a year now and I can see progress.


Melanie November 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I’m so glad you have noticed the progress, that’s great.


martha@simple-nourished-living.com November 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Hi Melanie,

Great information. I began using smaller salad plates for dinner this summer and lost several pounds easily and effortlessly. I think #5 is critical. Too many of us are eating while distracted which leads to overeating and lack of satisfaction – two sure contributors to weight gain. We also pre-plate our dinner, leaving anything extra on the stove. Making seconds inconvenient helps us not eat past that 80% place where you are no longer hungry but also not feeling “full.”
.-= martha@simple-nourished-living.com´s last blog ..Tap into Your Power =-.


Melanie December 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Hi Martha,
That’s wonderful news, well done. I love the fact that you said it was easy and effortless!!! Great idea to pre-plate your dinner, too, rather than having the serving bowls in the middle of the table. Thanks for sharing your tips.


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