How can I control my food portions?

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
Often times, it's not what we eat. It's how much we eat. Not everyone wants to take the time to measure their portions. However, it is easy to estimate portion sizes. My favorite way to estimate carbs is to imagine a baseball. A baseball is equal to about one cup, whether it be rice or pasta. An easy way to estimate protein is to compare your portion with a deck of cards. It doesn't seem like much, but it's plenty.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

One of the keys to controlling your portions is to choose healthy foods that will fill you up and satisfy your hunger without adding a lot of calories. For a great product that fights cravings—and a secret weapon that will help you fight portion distortion—watch this video featuring Cleveland Clinic dietitian and Dr. Oz Show guest Kristin Kirkpatrick.


One tactic you can use to control your food portions is eating your protein and veggies before the rest of your meal. For example, if you are eating a breakfast that includes ham, eggs, and pancakes, eat the eggs and ham first. Then eat the pancakes until you are full. This is much better than eating all of the pancakes and leaving the ham and eggs. Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates. By eating the protein first, you ensure you are getting finishing the most important part of your meal and you may end up eating less overall. The same strategy can be applied to your lunch and dinner. Eat your chicken, steak, salad, and side veggies before eating your pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice.

Debra Fulghum Bruce PhD
Healthcare Specialist
The fact that we're eating such huge portions say it all. Here are some ideas to control portion size:
  • Serve your meal on salad plates and pack away the large dinner plates
  • Store snack foods in tiny sandwich bags so you are sure you’re eating no more than one portion
  • When ordering out, share your entrée with your guest
  • Ask for a kid’s meal or small size -- not the super size portion
  • Fill up on fresh green salads, whole fruits with the skin, and colorful vegetables instead of high fat foods, breads, pasta, and desserts
Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

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Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

Do you wake up each morning aching with joint or muscle pain? Have you been trying to lose stubborn belly fat for years? Do you wish you could be active without pain medications? Look no further: Diet for a Pain-Free Life is the simple-to-follow, doctor-designed solution to improve your health. Leading rheumatologist, Dr. Harris McIlwain shares his revolutionary prescriptions in this first proven lifestyle plan that will help you drop pounds and decrease pain at the same time. Losing just 10 pounds can reduce chronic pain by as much as 90 percent. Learn the secrets of how to: Eat Well and Lose Weight with the Pain-Free Diet—even if you've never been able to succeed on a diet before Exercise Your Pain Away—even if you dislike traditional exercise, or if your pain makes movement difficult Stop the Stress-Pain Connection—even if you're overworked and easily stressed Improve the Quality of Your Sleep—even if you suffer from insomnia or other sleep conditions Those who have followed Dr. McIlwain's program have been able to resume the activities they love and transform their lives in as few as 21 days—now you can too.
Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Great question since dishes are way too large for portion sizes. Try these tricks: use a coffee cup for ice cream and cereal. Use the cereal bowl for salad. Use the salad plate for the main dish plate. Another strategy is to eat 2/3 of what you are now. If you like detail, use measuring cups and measure half cup portions.

Keri Gans
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
Here are some tips for controlling portion sizes:
  • Prepare your plate in the kitchen, measuring out correct portions, rather than serve yourself from pots and dishes on the table.
  • Replace oversized or fluffy breads to save calories. Move from a whole bagel to a bialy or English muffin, from a sub, hoagie, or plain roll to sliced bread.
  • Use measuring cups to ensure correct serving size.
  • When you’re comfortable with the measuring cups, start “eyeballing” portions.
  • Never eat out of a box or bag. Remove one portion, then close the bag.
The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You

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The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You

THE ONLY “DIET” PLAN YOU WILL EVER NEED! No deprivation, no struggles. Just ten small changes that will transform your life. Keri Gans, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, shares her simple plan for weight-loss success that lasts a lifetime. The Small Change Diet isn’t about creating unrealistic, unsustainable rules—like counting calories, restricting choices, or eliminating entire food groups. It’s about turning smart habits into second nature. When it comes to achieving healthy, continued weight loss, the smallest adjustments often make the biggest impact. The key is mastering one new habit before expecting yourself to tackle another. Keri breaks each of the plan’s ten easy steps into even smaller, more manageable solutions. The best part is that you decide what to focus on and when you’re ready to move on. Take your time! Once you’ve made all ten changes, you’ll be healthier and thinner—for good!
Anna-Lisa Finger
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Okinawans have a wonderful saying: Hari Hachi Bu. Which means eat only until you are 80% full. They also eat a mostly plant-based diet, which includes plenty of vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and fish. 

Why eat like the Okinawans? Heart disease, stroke and rates of cancer are much lower in Okinawa compared to the US. 

Kate Geagan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

We eat with our eyes as much as with our stomachs, and no one wants to feel deprived, stars included. Cornell University’s Mindless Eating Lab has done some fun and fantastic research on this, and their findings are consistent: both our bodies and our brains fight against deprivation—and visual cues are a key part of feeling satisfied. Aim for 350-450 calorie meals and 100-150 calorie snacks. Avoid portion distortion: Remember big plates, big spoons, big cups = bigger servings and more calories. The trick? Research suggests you can easily consume 20-30% less without even missing it, simply by serving on smaller plates, glasses and bowls.

A healthy diet approach does not exclude your favorite foods, but encourages moderation and portion control. Here are tips for maintaining appropriate portion sizes:
  • Order the regular or child-size portion. Mega-sized servings are probably more than you need. For a lighter meal, order a healthy appetizer in place of a main course.
  • Be size-wise about muffins, bagels, croissants and biscuits. A jumbo muffin has more than twice the fat and calories of a regular size.
  • Hunger may drive you to eat too much bread before your meal arrives. Hold the bread or chips until your meal is served or not at all.
  • Tempted by sweet desserts? Order one dessert with enough forks for everyone at the table to have a bite.
  • Split your order. Share an extra large sandwich or main course with a friend or take half home for another meal.
Dr. Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy Specialist
Begin by familiarizing yourself with how much you should eat from each food group. This varies based on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Get a personalized list of the amount of grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, and beans you should eat each day. Then, for one week, measure your portions until you find them easy to eyeball. Portions seem larger on smaller plates, so consider scaling down your dinner plate, or substituting a salad plate, to fool your mind into feeling full. Then divide the plate: heap half of it with salad or vegetables, saving one-quarter for protein and one-quarter for starch.

Quick tips for portion control:

1 thumb tip = 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, butter, or sugar
1 finger = 1 oz. of cheese
1 fist = 1 cup cereal, pasta, vegetables
1 handful = 1 oz. of nuts
1 palm = 3 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry
2 handfuls = 2 oz. of pretzels
You can control your food portion sizes by keeping serving platters off the table, eating from smaller plates and bowls, and measuring your helpings as you serve yourself. Avoid eating directly from food packages, and keep in mind that if it's bigger than your hand, it's probably more than one portion!
Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)
Leave the last bite on your plate. If you finish everything on your plate, and even scrape it clean with bread to get every last drop, you are sending a message to your brain that there was not enough food. You are letting the portion dictate how hungry you are. If you make a decision that you are done before the portion is finished, you send a very strong message to your mind and through it to your stomach that you have had enough and you couldn’t eat another bite. This strategy gives you control over how much is enough. It makes a dramatic difference in how you look at food and your level of satisfaction will increase significantly.
Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist
Portion control can take some time to master, but it is a skill that is completely necessary for long-term weight control. If you balance your food selections correctly, you will never have to feel hungry, even when you are losing weight. If you significantly increase your vegetable and fruit intake, and reduce your fat intake to a very modest level, portion control over other foods will be relatively simple. In addition, consuming PolyGlycopleX (PGX) before, during, or after meals is another strategy to bring about satiety while decreasing portion sizes. Five grams of PGX will hold about one liter of water as it passes through the stomach and small intestine. Since most people's stomachs holds about two liters of water, a 5-gram serving of PGX prior to your meal will allow you to cut your portion sizes easily in half and still have the sensation of feeling full.
Hunger Free Forever: The New Science of Appetite Control

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Hunger Free Forever: The New Science of Appetite Control

From two leading authorities on appetite control, obesity, natural medicine, and food comes a breakthrough in getting healthy and staying slim without starving.Millions have spent years searching for...
Dr. Rovenia Brock, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Here are some tips to curb your overactive appetite and to eyeball your food portions:

1. Slow Down! Take a breath between bites - it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness.
2. Fill-up on water before eating (just 1 glass can curb a veracious appetite).
3. Plan ahead: cook more and control what you eat.
4. Get back to “Grandma’s” advice and “Eat your roughage!” Leafy green veggies contain lots of fiber which curbs appetite.
5. Eat more beans for protein and soluble fiber which also protects against heart disease.
6. Design your meals with three-fourths colorful veggies and fruit and complete the final quarter with 4-6 ounces of lean protein and a serving or half-serving of whole grains.

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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.