Larger portions are one of the top reasons women have a hard time losing or keeping off their weight. In many cases, we simply eat more than our bodies really need.

To boot, did you know that serving sizes have grown considerably over the past 20 years? This includes all types of restaurants (from fast food to fancy). And something to certainly keep in mind if you are ordering take out more often these days. 

Here is an interesting fact for you: Whether you want so much food or not, the more you’re served, the more you eat.

The theory was put to the test a few years ago at Penn State University’s College of Health and Human Development.

Volunteers were given a different amount of macaroni and cheese each day for lunch. Researchers then watched to see if larger portions resulted in greater consumption. According to Barbara Rolls, one of the head researchers:

“It didn’t matter if it was men or women, dieters or non-dieters, people who were overweight or not, people who habitually clean their plates or not. Everyone responded to the increased portion size by eating more.”

So how do you handle larger than normal portions when you are out to eat? What about at home? 

To help you manage portions, try these tips:

AT HOME

  • Avoid watching TV or doing other activities while eating. If you’re distracted, you won’t fully enjoy your food and may not realize how much you are eating.
  • Use smaller plates, cups and bowls. As an example, we use salad plates for our dinner meal. It’s such a great portion control tool! By putting less on the plate, it allows you to take stock of how full you are before going back for more (psst – make sure half the plate is veggies). 
  • Going back for seconds? Follow our guideline and only fill your plate 20%.
  • Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full. Our blog on fast eaters is a wonderful read if this is your issue!
  • Eat regular meals. Skipping meals or leaving large gaps of time between meals often leads to overeating later in the day.
  • Freeze or store in the fridge extra food in amounts that you can use for a single serving or for a family meal another day. What a gift to have an extra meal or two that you don’t have to cook! 
  • Make a rule not to eat  out of a bag or container. Go for single-serving prepackaged items to avoid overeating.
  • Don’t make the mistake that healthy means “eat all you want.” No matter how healthy your meal is, it doesn’t give you license to eat until you’re stuffed. Even nourishing food can add extra weight if you eat too much of it 🙂

IN A RESTAURANT:

  • Do not arrive TOO hungry. It’s nice to have an appetite when eating out, but don’t expect to keep your portions under control if you starve your self all day in anticipation of the meal. This will only set you up to overeat (read: dive into the bread or chips basket) as you will be super hungry. Keep to your normal eating routine and you will be in better shape.
  • Divide your plate in half. When the meal comes, mentally divide the plate and plan to take half home. If you wish, have the waiter pack it up sooner than later to avoid temptation. Remind yourself this can be tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.
  • Share an entree. This works great especially if you have an appetizer.
  • Take your time and eat slowly. Enjoy the company and atmosphere. Chew your food slowly and try to practice mindful eating. You will likely be full/satisfied before the food is gone and you an bring the rest back.

Share you experiences with us. We always love hearing from you!

Jane and Stephanie help women over 50 create sustainable healthy eating habits so they can feel empowered heading into retirement.Their 3-pronged approach, which can fit into any lifestyle, encompasses not only wholesome energizing foods but powerful habit and mindset shifts.