7 easy ways to perfect your portion control
Portion control – it's the key to eating more healthily and managing your weight as part of a healthy lifestyle. Here at Expertrain, we're not obsessed with calorie counting; we're more about eating a little of what you fancy and ensuring your diet is well-balanced. But portion control is definitely essential if you're looking to lose weight, increase muscle, tone up and get fit. The question is, how do you tackle this sometimes tricky problem?
Many of us are guilty of overloading on carbs; eating huge portions of pasta or rice with our main meal. It's all about balance, eating smaller portions but the right quantities of each food group – fresh fruit and vegetables, carbs and protein. Our 5 easy ways to manage portion control will help you ensure you're eating the right quantities and healthy portion sizes for a happier, healthier you.
#1. Get things in proportion
It's all about ensuring you eat the right quantities for your weight and activity level. Women need around 46g of protein a day, whilst men need around 56g – this can vary depending on weight, but on average, that's around 15 to 19g of protein per meal. Those who weigh more than average or anyone who's more active will need more protein. The recommended amount is 1.2g of protein per kg of weight, if you lead an active lifestyle. Athletes looking to increase muscle mass will need up to 1.8g of protein per kg of weight. (1)
We should also be eating around 43g of carbohydrates per meal – that means around 50-60% of your total daily calories should come from carbs. Women under the age of 50 should consume around 25g of fibre a day, whilst for men the figure is around 38g – that's between 7g and 13g of fibre per meal. Try adding a cup of kidney beans to your dish; one cup has around 13.5g of fibre.
The more active you are, the more carbs, protein and fat you need, but a good starting point is 50% carbs, 20% protein.
#2. Use a smaller plate
Eating your meals off smaller plates can help you to cut calories by up to 22%. If there is empty space on your plate surrounding your food, your brain unconsciously thinks the plate contains less food. Remember, it's your eyes that count calories, not your stomach. Put the same quantity of food on a smaller plate, and your brain will think you're eating more, making you less likely to reach for seconds or snack between meals. In contrast, using a larger fork may help you to eat less! Studies carried out in restaurants showed that those using a smaller fork at dinner time ate more.
#3. Avoid skipping meals
When you're ravenous with hunger, you are more likely to eat a larger portion. That's why it's so important to eat three well-balanced meals a day, interspersed with healthy snacks to keep hunger at bay. This helps to stabilise your blood sugar, preventing cravings for unhealthy food, and can also help you to make better food choices.
Experts recommend that you don't go longer than five hours without eating (2), except when you're asleep. So don't skip breakfast; there's a reason it's the most important meal of the day! Eating a healthy breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and if you eat a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs, you'll be less likely to snack mid-morning or eat a calorific lunch.
#4. Befriend your kitchen scales
Most of us don't have a clue about portion sizes – could you judge what a 2oz serving of pasta looks like? Neither can we, so rather than guessing and adding calories to your meals, grab a kitchen scales and get measuring! It's particularly important to measure portions when it comes to carbs such as rice or pasta, as these can be difficult to judge because they expand upon cooking. Not only will you waste food if you don't weigh it out, but you may actually find yourself eating more than you intended.
#5. Eat healthy snacks
You might think that snacking means you're consuming more calories – it can do, but it can also stop you eating larger portions at dinner time. If you're ravenous by the time lunch or dinner rolls around, you're more likely to eat more than you would normally, especially if you're going more than four to five hours between meals. By including healthy snacks, such as fruit, granola or vegetables and dip, in between meals, you'll help ensure your blood sugar levels are stable. This is even more important if you're heading to the gym, as a post-workout snack will help your body to recover.
#6. Turn off the TV
We know that you're more likely to eat a larger portion whilst watching TV – your brain is distracted and isn't focusing on the food in front of you, making you more likely to mindlessly munch. But did you know that watching action films could make you eat up to twice as much as usual? (3) The fast paced plot and loud sound effects are more distracting to the brain, which could mean you're consuming more calories per meal (or snack) than you would usually. It's best to turn off the TV when eating – enjoy a family meal at the table, or, if you do need a distraction when eating alone, flick through a magazine or newspaper instead.
#7. Keep treats out of sight
Keeping sweet treats and other snacks out of sight means you're less likely to be tempted. If you have a bag of sweets on your desk whilst you're working, it could tempt you to snack more. Instead, keep healthy trail mix or a small portion of nuts nearby, and only snack if you're hungry. The same goes for your weekly food shop – don't buy foods that you know will tempt you such as fatty, sugary processed snacks. If you don't have them in the cupboards at home, you won't be able to eat them!
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