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Let’s Talk Portion Control

Measuring Implements

I am an eater by trade and design. It’s pretty much what I do, so I need to pay close attention to what I eat and how I do it. But carefully measuring portions of dried pasta with funny spaghetti cups and checking the ounces per serving of dishes is not my scene and it can take the fun out of cooking and eating.

I have found that the single most important element for me is to be conscious of the speed at which I eat. I worked in kitchens for years, where I often wolfed down a meal standing up while finishing my prep list. It was tough to transition out of that mindset even after I left the restaurant world. Focusing on foods that simply take me longer to eat is my easy solution – salads and soup top the list.

How do you think movie stars get their chiseled jaws? Lettuce workouts. I’m sure of it. Here are my top five tips for healthy portion control – chiseled jawlines are a just a happy byproduct.

Eat a giant salad before dinner or for dinner.

Big Beautiful Salad with Lemon-Miso DressingIn our family we often serve salads in mixing bowls and fill it up almost entirely with raw veggies. Then we add some cooked vegetables, seeds and nuts, condiments for fun, and it becomes a seriously filling and delicious meal.With all the fiber in vegetables, that salad will take way longer to eat than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or chicken breast. After one of my mixing bowl salads, I’m pretty much exhausted and very happy with my meal. 

Feature soup as the main event.

Red Beans and Rice SoupIn college I hosted a visiting professor for dinner and served (what I thought was) a cool, casual vegetarian meal. Though the professor loved it, I noticed at some point he was waiting patiently for the main course. Oops. It might be difficult to get beyond soup as first course, but it works wonders as a warming meal in itself, like this Hearty Minestrone Soup. Fill up your soup with veggies and skip any added dairy for the best benefit.

If you’re more of a one-course eater, pile any veggies (raw or cooked) on at least half of your plate.

Use the other half of your plate for protein and grains, then pile on more veggies! You’ll feel triumphant that you’ve constructed such a beautiful and bountiful meal.

Cook for the number of people you’re serving.

This is such a tough one for me! It’s so much easier for me to cook as though I run some sort of boarding school for giant athletes. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but it brings up a good point. Aside from refrigerator essentials like roasted veggies and a big pot of beans or whole grains, the best strategy is to cook exactly how much you should be eating for that meal. It makes clean up a snap and prevents second and third helpings.

Plate your meal in the kitchen then move to your designated eating space.

It’s so easy at the end of a fun meal to just hang out and nibble on anything leftover on the table. Plate up grains and proteins in the kitchen, but take the giant family-style salad bowl to the table. That way the only extra nibbling is on veggies.

What are your tips for portion control? How do you find satisfaction in a meal even while you’re trying to keep yourself in check? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Sandra Schmid says …

If I share my meal with a friend, I end up eating less. I slow down when we're talking. Our conversation on a good day is more interesting that then food.

Windy Kasco says …

Molly, Thank you so much for this! I too worked (25+yrs.) in the fast paced environment of the culinary world and never had the time to eat a hot meal, let alone sit! Now back at college becoming a Registered Dietitian, I am learning how important focusing and paying attention to not only what we eat, but how much, where and with whom we eat. Mindful eating is so important! Check this out...Easy ways to incorporate change to start. http://eatingmindfully.com/tools/26-2-mindful-eating-marathon-tips/ Again, Thank you. Windy

Angela Burgess says …

I wholeheartedly agree with Molly...when I slow down, I enjoy my meal more and I eat less. Big salads that include protein ( tuna, salmon, avacado, seeds, nuts.etc) are fantastic and very filling. A good veggie soup also tops my list.

chris says …

Thanks for the great advice. Can you tell me all that is in the salad pictured above.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRIS - If you click on the photo it will take you directly to the recipe. Or you can use this link: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/big-beautiful-salad-lemon-miso-dressing