How can I eat smaller portions and still feel full?

Feeling full is what everyone seems to be after. I mean, who wants to walk around hungry all the time? Not me!  Here are a few tips to help you through your growling tummy.
  • It is best to break your calories up into 6 smaller meals. This way you feel like you are eating more throughout the day. For instance, if you are trying to stay at 1500 calories, you could eat 3, 400 calorie meals and 3, 100 calories snacks.
  • Choose foods that are low in calories like carrots. You can eat many carrots and not end up eating too many calories.
  • Drink a 16oz glass of water before you eat. Doing so will make that belly feel fuller so you eat about 90 calories less.
  • Literally cut your meals in half and save the other half for another day. 
  • Be prepared for the munchies. Always keep food at hand like low calorie snacks. This way if the munchies hit, you have a good option and don’t go running toward the vending machine.
  • As you are eating, remind yourself of your portion distortion. A portion of food can pretty much fit into the palm of your hand -- if you are eating more than that, then you are eating just way too much and do not need more food. 
  • Remind yourself that you are in control. If that ice cream calls your name one more time from the freezer -- go throw it away!
The nice thing is that when it comes to food you have the control and the power to make the change.  If you use a few of these tips you will get past that growling belly and start seeing the pounds disappear! 
Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine
The first thing to get full is to eat slower. That is one of my biggest problems. My brain does not have a chance to tell me I am full because I am always rushing. You will automatically eat smaller portions if you eat slower. One trick is to always have smaller portions in front of you. An example is to not use a full dinner plate but an appetizer plate instead. Also staying full depends on the food you eat. Processed foods go away quickly. Healthy foods ie: fruit, vegtables and proteins will fill you up and keep you full longer.
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine
To help feel full with smaller portions try these four tips:
  1. Eat smaller amounts but eat every three or four hours. You will more likely feel fuller on less as you will not be as hungry when you start eating. If you wait to eat until you are "starving" you are more likely to eat until you are "stuffed".
  2. On a scale of one to ten, one is starving and ten is stuffed, take note of how hungry you are before you take your first bite. Then check in along the way. When you reach comfortably full (around 7-8) stop eating!! Many of us are used to eating until stuffed!! Stuffed is past where we need to be. If you give yourself permission to eat again if you really are hungry, it may help you be able to say “enough for now“.
  3. Choose high water and fiber content foods along with protein. Both types of foods help you feel full and satiated which means the time until you feel hungry again will be longer. Volumetrics, by Barbara Rolls gives great examples of this style of eating. More vegetables, some whole grains and fruit along with lean protein like fish, poultry, egg whites, lean beef, small amount of cheese and/or milk can all help to satisfy without going over your caloric needs.
  4. Set the scene! Plate your food so that it is appealing yet there is a beginning and an end. This will help you perceive that you have completed an ample meal. Choose a smaller size plate so the amount you are eating seems like more. Eat slowly, cutting your food into bite size pieces and pay attention while you are eating to what you are eating. This will help register that you have actually eaten a good amount of food and you will more likely be satisfied with the food consumed. Tuning into what we eat, how the food tastes, how it is prepared and how it satisfies us all contributes to the feeling of being full.
Here are three tips to help you feel fuller when eating smaller portions:
  1. Eat more fibrous foods. Fibrous foods such as whole-grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables make you feel fuller because they are high in water and/or fiber. More fiber in your diet will also cause your body to release a potent hormone called leptin. When leptin is released it suppresses your appetite and increases the amount of energy (calories) you burn.
  2. Include more protein in your meals and snacks. Protein is not only great for helping your body recover and repair itself from your exercise program, it also aids in satiety (making you feel fuller, longer) and signals the release of glucagon, a very powerful fat-releasing hormone! Examples of protein include but aren't limited to: low-fat meat sources, lower-fat dairy products such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, eggs, protein powders/ bars, and Quinoa.    
  3. Don't shy away from healthy fats. When eating smaller portions, inclusion of healthy fats may slow down the time it takes to digest your meal which will help you feel fuller longer. Examples of foods containing healthy fats include but aren't limited to: olive oil, almonds and other nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and peanut butter.
Beth Oliver
First of all, eat foods that are high in fiber. Have a mix of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat at each meal. Also, put your meal on a smaller plate, it might seem silly, but it does trick you into feeling like you are eating a larger meal. Finally, sit down to eat your meal without doing other things like watching TV. Eat slowly and enjoy your meal!
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you reduce your portion sizes and still find yourself very hungry, then you've got three options to consider:
  • Choose higher fiber foods.
  • Eat more veggies.
  • Check in with yourself to see if you're actually not hungry, but not stuffed. Many people become so conditioned to big feelings of fullness that they have to reacquaint their bodies to feeling like they've had just enough and will be okay for another couple of hours before they eat again. Remember: your body works best when it's underwhelmed.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing
When you are starting a diet or should I say a healthier eating plan most of us worry about how will we ever feel full with those itty-bitty portion sizes. I felt the same way when I started the meals in YOU ON A DIET. Amazingly to my surprise I was never hungry. Eating every 3- 4 hours, drinking plenty of fluids, eating all the fruits and veggies and foods that were high in fiber and avoiding the food felons that trigger hunger and cravings kept my body from secreting the hormone ghrelin. This is the hormone that keeps all of us hungry and overeating.

Eating smart allowed my body to produce more of the hormone leptin which allowed me to feel full. If fear of portion size is holding you back from starting your transformation journey I challenge you to follow the meal plan and menus in YOU ON A DIET for just 2 weeks and tell me you were really hungry....I am betting instead you will tell me you lost 1-2 inches of your belly fat and are well on your way to YOUR transformation.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Monstrous portion sizes are one of our stomach's biggest enemies: Studies show that when you're served bad foods in large containers, you'll eat up to a third more than if you were served in smaller containers. By getting served in larger popcorn boxes, bigger dishes, and taller cups, we've automatically been tricked into thinking that availability should dictate how much we eat, rather than physical hunger.

You don't have to go through drastic changes to make small ones. For starters, change your serving plates to the 9-inch variety to give yourself the visual and psychological clue that you're full when your physical appetite has been sated. That's important because studies show visual clues help determine how full you are, in that that you may not feel satisfied until your plate is clean, no matter how large the plate is. That's also reason to never eat directly out of a box or carton and to remember that one serving size of a food is often about the size of a fist.
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The key is choosing foods that are filling and have fewer calories. That way you take in fewer calories but not a smaller amount of food. If you simply cut the portions of the foods you’re eating, you’ll likely feel deprived. Go for more fresh, steamed veggies, fruit, whole grains and beans. These foods are rich in fiber and water -- two nutrients that are critical for helping you feel full because they provide volume and bulk to our foods with very few calories. Choose lean protein sources such as fish, soy products, skinless poultry and lean meat. Also be sure to limit high-fat, high-calorie items like butter, fried foods, chips, pastries and full-fat cheese, milk, yogurt and ice cream. Research by Dr. Rolls at Penn State University has shown that consuming high-volume, lower calories meals leads to eating 30% less or 400 fewer calories per day without hunger.
Eating smaller portions is a good way to lose weight and control your intake of unhealthy food. Here are three tips to eating smaller portions of food:
  • Use 9-inch plates and you'll eat 50% less.
  • Eat high-fiber fruit before dinner and you'll eat less and boost weight loss.
  • Drink water before each meal to control appetite and lose pounds fast.
We tend to eat so quickly that small meals can feel scary, and if we look at the meal right out of the gate and think it won’t be enough, our brains can make us feel like it isn’t. Instead, enjoy each bite. It’s not simply a matter of eating less; it’s also about being mindful of when we are full so that we don’t consume huge portions.
You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.