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Mindful Corner: Making Smaller Portions More Satisfying

by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN

Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of a number of different cancers [i]. What is more, we have observed over the years the increasing portion sizes at restaurants in combination with the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States [ii]. A great way to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight is to focus on portion sizes, and an important part of this is to ensure that you are still satisfied when eating smaller portions. Check out the tips below to help make eating smaller portions more satisfying.

  1. Use smaller plates, bowls, and utensils. In a study involving 85 nutrition experts at an ice cream social, participants were given a smaller or larger bowl and a smaller or larger ice cream scoop. The authors found that those given larger bowls or larger spoons naturally served themselves more [iii]. This simple change can make a big difference in the way your body and mind process portion sizes. You can even try serving your salad in a slightly larger bowl and your protein, whole grains, and healthy fats in a smaller bowl. In addition, using smaller utensils will lead to smaller bites, making the meal last longer, and the body becoming more satiated with a smaller amount.

  2. Put your utensil down in between bites. Many of us are in the habit of eating quickly, particularly during the day while working. Putting your utensil down in between bites of food will put a barrier in between taking another bite before finishing the first.

  3. Choose high fiber and high protein foods. Foods with fiber and protein influence our blood sugar, digestion, and hormones in a way so that we feel more satisfied. For example, an apple with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter will keep you fuller for longer than a large bag of chips. Foods containing protein include: fish or shellfish, chicken, turkey, Greek yogurt, beans, eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, beef, and pork. Foods containing the highest amounts of fiber include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato with skin, berries, pears, apples, split peas, lentils, black beans, chia seeds, almonds, pistachios, barley, bran flakes, and oats.

  4. When given a large portion, divide it first. It may be challenging to know when to stop eating when you are given a large portion of food. When being served a large portion out at a restaurant or by a family member or friend, physically divide the portion in half before you start eating. That way, your mind can visualize the portion size you will be eating and the portion you will be saving. In general, aim for 1-2 cups of vegetables, 4 oz (the size of a deck of cards) of protein, 1/2-1 cup of carbohydrates, and 2 tsp of a healthy fat, such as olive oil, at each meal.


[i] Look AHEAD Research Group, Yeh HC, Bantle JP, Cassidy-Begay M, Blackburn G, Bray GA, Byers T…Yanovski SZ. (2020). Intensive weight loss intervention and cancer risk in adults with type 2 diabetes: analysis of the look AHEAD randomized clinical trial. Obesity, 28(9): 1678-1686. doi:10.1002/oby.22936

[ii] Young LR & Nestle M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. Am J Public Health, 92(2): 246-249. doi:10.2105/ajph.92.2.246

[iii] Wansink B, van Ittersum K, Painter JE. (2006) Ice cream illusions: bowls, spoons, and self-served portion sizes. A J Prev Med, 31(3): 240-243. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2006.04.003

  1. Thanks for the useful tips about portion control, Jenna. I have noticed that some restaurants do give huge portions, so dividing the plate in half before beginning is a great idea.

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