10 tips for downsizing your portions

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 21 July 2010.
Tagged: eating mindfully, healthy eating, portion size, weight loss

10 tips for downsizing your portions
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Everything we eat has gotten larger. Look at how big that muffin at the cafe is. Watch the slabs of pizza as they come out of the pizza oven. Watch how much fettuccine the pasta bar packs into a take-away container. Check how much cereal you pour out for breakfast. And how thick is that trendy slice of fruit loaf with your coffee?

Bigger means you eat more

  1. Why worry about how big the food is in front of you? Because serving up larger portion is a key trigger for overeating and is now considered one of the causes of the obesity epidemic.

Put simply, the bigger the portion you tuck into, the more you eat - and that's been proven in research.

  • A US study, for instance, of 30 pre-school children, reported that when the size of their macaroni and cheese meal served was doubled, children ate 25 per cent more, which was equivalent to 15 per cent more kilojoules.
  • Another study showed that when given a 500g packet of chocolate M&Ms to snack on during a movie, people ate an average of 112 M&Ms. However when offered the larger 1kg bag, people ate 156 M&Ms, 30 per cent more without realizing it.

If you want to avoid the portion distortion trap, follow these 10 tips:

1. Eat slowly. Listen to your stomach and stop eating when you feel full. You don't need to finish everything on your plate.

2. Buy the smallest size you can. Don't be tempted to get ‘value for money' with the bigger size. Or share with a friend or save half for later.

3. Serve meals on smaller sized plates and bowls. Use small - not oversized - spoons.

4. Measure or weigh your portions of rice, pasta or meat once so you know what a standard size serve looks like. When you're serving, take notice of how much you getting - is it half a cup OR really 1 1/2 cups?

5. Meat portions should be around the size of the palm of your hand.

6. When eating out, ask for a ‘doggie bag' and take leftovers home for later.

7. Don't be tempted to finish off all you've cooked up. Freeze leftovers in single or double portions for another meal.

8. Use tall thin glasses for drinks as they look as if they hold more than short squat glasses.

9. Check the label to see if the serve size is realistic. Many snacks and dairy desserts are sold as a single serve yet often contain 2 or 3 serves. For example, you can easily finish off a 200g tub of dairy dessert but the figures on the labels refer to a 100g serve size - half the tub.

The bottom line

10. Everyone loves a bargain. But it's a bargain our waistlines don't need! Next time, you see a ‘two for one' offer, think of this - if it doesn't go to WASTE, it will end up around your WAIST!

Want more?

download1Grab a copy of our free download called Portion Caution which shows you at a glance how popular foods have been upsized in recent times.


Catherine Saxelby About the author

About the Author


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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!