Portion Size and
Portion Control

Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes
Not Paying Attention to Portion Size

cartoon turkey

Size matters. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Portion size matters even if you are eating the right foods!

cartoon portion plate
Have you heard of portion control plates? Some of my clients love them.

They're thrilled to have a visual guide to how much food they should be eating.

Some of my clients hate them.

They don't want some flatware telling them how much to eat!

I think they're a great tool, but only if they appeal to YOU. (I personally love them and use them myself!)

If you think they might, check out this selection.

You may be eating fish or using olive oil...

...because you know they are "good for you."

But if you eat too much of the right foods, you still might never lose an ounce!

That's because all foods, even good foods, have calories

And calories matter when it comes to weight loss. Portion control is therefore a must.

Suppose you finish an entire 9 oz. portion of salmon in a restaurant. Know this: a "portion" is different than a "serving."

A portion is whatever the restaurant decides to put on your plate. In this case, it's 3 times what a standard serving size is. (See what a standard serving size is below.) And even a healthy food like salmon has ~60 calories per oz.

Your 9 oz. portion therefore has 540 calories (and that's not even taking into consideration the calories whatever it's cooked in may contain)...as many calories as a McDonald's Big Mac!

Sure the salmon is healthier than fast food, but your waistline doesn't know the difference. When you overeat calories...healthy or otherwise...they wind up getting stored as body fat.

How Much to Eat: The Right Portion Size

If you are struggling with your weight and recognize it may be due to your portions, start by simply reducing portions by as little as 25%. This slight change in portion size shouldn't feel like a big deal, yet it will significantly reduce the number of calories you eat over time.

Most people think they need to cut portions drastically, then they don't stick with it because the change is too severe. If you normally eat a 16 oz. steak, try ordering a 12 oz. steak.

Yes, the standard serving size is really 3 oz., but if you're used to eating a 16 oz. steak, 3 oz. will likely seem too little. 12 oz. is 25 % less than 16 oz. (and more than a 200 calorie savings) and shouldn't leave you feeling too hungry. And here's the benefit:

Save 200 calories per day and lose 20 pounds per year!

How to Reduce Portion Sizes

  • Order smaller: 12 oz. vs 16 oz. or 8 oz. vs 12 oz.
  • Start with smaller portions. When eating out, request that part of your order be doggie bagged before you are served.
  • Split portions with a friend.
  • Buy smaller portions at the supermarket. If you normally buy 1 pound of chicken, buy 3/4 pound. Cooking less means less to over-stuff yourself with.
  • Eat on smaller plates. Serve dinner on your salad plate (and salad on your dinner plate).
  • Read nutrition labels to understand serving sizes. You should know how much cereal or how many crackers are considered "1 serving."
  • Buy portion controlled snack foods. If you must have "junk" foods, purchase them in single serving sizes or divvy up full size packages into smaller, indvidual bags.
  • Order child size portions (works great for ice cream!)
  • Order lunch portions at dinner.

Standard Serving Sizes

Are you making any more of the most common weight loss mistakes?

Avoid Getting TOO Hungry
Consider Alcohol Calories
Eat Sloooooowly
Eat Plenty of Fruits
Eat Enough Vegetables
Exercise FOR REAL
Get Enough Water
Kick "Quick" Weight Loss
Know What's On Your Plate
Quit Eating Haphazardly
Practice Portion Control

  • 3 oz. fish (thicker...like salmon) - the size of a deck of cards.
  • 3 oz. fish (thinner...like whitefish) - the size of a checkbook.
  • 3 oz. poultry or meat - the size of a deck of cards.
  • 1 cup cereal - the size of a fist.
  • 1/2 cup rice, pasta, potato or ice cream - the size of a baseball halved.
  • 1 medium fruit - the size of a baseball halved.
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter - the size of a ping pong ball.
  • 1 tsp. butter or mayonnaise - the size of one dice

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Download a Serving Size Card (PDF file) to help you recall what a standard food serving looks like. Cut out the card and keep it in your wallet to refer to.

More weight loss.

Learn more about portion size and portion control.

Back to Personal Nutrition Guide Home.