The Unexpected Benefits Of Portion Control

Portion control is an art — especially when the fare is so scrumptious it temps you into chowing down seconds (or thirds). Anyone who's counted calories (and avoided their favorite cookies) knows portions are a major key to weight management. Eat less to lose weight. It's a given, right? Surprisingly, aside from weight loss, there are more benefits to eating in moderation.

It's possible that cutting weight isn't your main goal. Maybe you want to balance your day-to-day intake. If food scales and tracking apps aren't your forté, stay tuned. We'll uncover simple ways to conquer overeating and why you'll want to start now.

Portion size and serving size are often misunderstood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines a serving as the suggested amount noted on most nutrition labels. Our portion size is how much we actually serve and enjoy. Although the two terms correlate, realistically, serving sizes don't determine our portions. The NIH says this "portion distortion" has taken over the standard American diet. Super-sized fries and jumbo drinks are now the new norms. In any case, this can be corrected. 

One common mistake we make with our portion sizes is eating with the eyes. This method usually helps us overestimate how much food we need. A 2005 study released by PubMed confirmed that visual cues (like bottomless bowls) increase our chances of overeating. In the same study, those who ate controlled portions felt just as full. As it turns out, measuring servings reframes our outlook.

Here's why managing portions is healthy

Nutrition experts at Livestrong mention multiple ways the body benefits from moderation. Blood sugar balance tops their list of perks. Blood sugar levels are impacted by carb intake. We metabolize carbohydrates into blood sugar for energy. According to Livestrong, large meals trigger our pancreas to create excess sugar-balancing insulin, which makes us feel hungry when we're really full. Monitoring portions in meals allows the blood sugar to rise gradually, which is especially important for diabetics.

As the PubMed study concluded, weight control is a clear benefit. Fewer calories mean less energy to burn. Enjoying smaller amounts in each meal also improves digestion. MyFitnessPal explains that our digestive system is better able to absorb nutrients from smaller, more frequent meals. As you pay closer attention to your plate, you may notice increased body awareness and a better relationship to food.

There are tons of easy tips to temper your portions. Firstly, read nutrition labels to see how many servings come in each package. Use smaller serving spoons and dinnerware, or try a portion guide (like this one from Precision Nutrition). Having smaller meals more frequently is a way to prevent overindulgence. Finally, prep meals in advance to provide consistent portion sizes.

Reducing portions is a snap when you're prepared. When you choose moderation, your body will utilize nutrients efficiently and balance your blood sugar. Start where you are. Eat smaller meals more often and reach out to a nutritionist or dietician for meal planning assistance.