We’ve all been there: the heavy, over-stuffed feeling you get after a good meal that’s accompanied by thoughts like, “Wow, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten four servings of cheesy potatoes.”
Many people struggle to know what a serving size looks like for any given food. But who wants to be that guy who whips out the measuring cup before he serves himself at each meal? Not only is it annoying and awkward, but people think you look downright dumb for taking your portion sizes so seriously.
Solution? Portion control hacks. Try some of these tips next time you sit down to eat, and I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how full you feel despite how little it may seem you’ve eaten.
The Hand Trick
Instead of worrying about exact cup or ounce measurements, use the parts of your hand to guide your serving sizes. Your protein (meat, eggs and beans) should roughly equal the size of your palm, and your carbs (grains) should be just enough to fill your cupped hands.
Your serving of veggies should be the size of your fist, and your fat serving (butter) should be about the size of your thumb.
While these guidelines may change a bit based on your size and gender (for dudes, double everything above), overall your hand is a super useful and discrete way to know how much you should be eating.
The Plate Trick
This tip may not work when you’re out in public, but it will definitely help you in the comfort of your own home. Tell me this: when you think “red,” what pops into your mind? Probably stop (red lights, stop signs, exit signs—you get the point).
If you eat from a red plate or bowl, science shows you’re more likely to eat less because your brain registers “stop” when it sees your red dining ware. Your subconscious is insane.
While you might not want to replace everything in your house, try buying one plate or bowl to when you’re eating especially unhealthy or filling foods like pasta or ice cream.
The Water Trick
This is more of a “don’t overeat” tactic than a portion control hack, but in the end it’s all the same to me. It’s so simple. Before each meal, down a full glass of water. Badda bing, badda boom.
Having water in your stomach will make you feel fuller so you’re less likely to eat more than you should. And you’re probably not getting enough water anyways, so it’s really a win-win.
The Tight Pants Trick
You know how people joke about wearing sweatpants or stretchy pants when they’re prepping to take on a big meal? The clothing trick works both ways.
If you wear tighter or more form-fitting clothing, you’re less likely to overeat because it literally makes your jeggings more uncomfortable than they already are. Funny, but seriously true.
On the other hand, if you’re eating the right portions, your pants should feel only kind of annoying…
The Veggie Trick
The one food group that everyone always harps about is vegetables. I feel like no matter what I do, I never get enough of them. That means if you’re going to bend your portions, do it with your veggies.
Strike this deal with yourself: if you eat a full meal of correctly-sized portions and you still feel hungry, only go back for seconds on vegetables. It may suck the first few times you try this, but it’s so much better for you than getting more carbs or even a little more of everything.
The Eating Order Trick
When you sit down to a meal, what’s usually your first bite? If I had to guess, I’d say you devour the yummiest thing on the plate first (which usually has the least amount of nutritional value). And if you’re like my sister, you use your fullness to explain why you just cannot eat your veggies.
Instead, eat by order of descending nutritional value. Take out the salad and the vegetables first. Then, move on to the protein-rich components. If and only if you’re still hungry, finish your meal with the carbs, but don’t feel the need to eat them all.
If you eat this way, you’re filling up on the great stuff and (possibly) bypassing the not-so-great stuff.
The Halfsies Trick
This tip works when you’re sitting down to conquer something relatively large, like a sandwich, burger or larger-than-life slice of pizza. Just cut whatever it is in half and refuse to eat both halves.
Chances are, you’ll actually be full with just one half of the burger or sandwich. The hardest part about this tip is the temptation to dig into that other half. Be strong.
Bonus: This always yields leftovers. Yaaaassssss.
The Mindful Eating Trick
Don’t sit in front of the TV when you eat. Don’t mess around on your laptop when you eat. Don’t text or Facetime or call someone or paint a picture or go bicycling. Just eat.
If you take the time to appreciate the flavors of your food, you’re going to eat slower and, as a result, you’re going to feel fuller much sooner. Mindless eating is an invitation to shove way more food in your piehole than you need.
The People Trick
Sure, it’s faster and less complicated to eat by yourself most of the time, but it’s also so much easier to overeat when there’s no one else there to chat you up or eye your triple serving of meatballs.
Eating in a social environment does two things: first off, you’ll eat slower (and feel fuller sooner) if you’re eating while having a conversation. Secondly, there’s always that part of you that doesn’t want to feel judged for how much you’re eating.
While you should never let that voice get too loud, it’s good when it talks you out of unneeded third or fourth helpings.
The Minimizing Trick
The key to this trick is literally minimizing how much food you’re eating. If these other tips don’t work for you, use this one as a last resort. It doesn’t require mental measurements, just your eyes.
Take the portion of any given food that you want. Just go for it. Now, take 1/4 to 1/3 of that portion and place it back in the serving dish. It’s less than you want, sure, but it’s probably all that you really need. You can always go back for seconds, but you can’t undo an over-sized portion.