Maintaining an optimal weight is essential to sustaining overall health and wellness, and drastically reducing the chances of developing serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Those who are overweight or obese will also find their energy levels compromised, which can have a negative effect on their overall enjoyment of life. For these reasons, it is imperative that measures be taken to reach an optimal weight through a variety of methods, including portion control.

Practicing portion control is an important step to losing unwanted weight and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s very easy to overeat at one sitting, especially if you’re distracted or simply not being mindful of how many calories are in your particular dish. Studies have shown that people underestimate the caloric content of their portions by up to 25%.

Additionally, many people have a skewed perspective on what a recommended serving size is and how many calories are contained within these portions. This is why it is important to gain an understanding of what proper portion sizes are and become aware of how many calories are being consumed at each meal. This may sound daunting, but getting a handle on portion control doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 ways to help you moderate your portion sizes at each meal.

Educate Yourself on Serving Sizes: Educating yourself on the amount of food that is in a serving as well as the number of calories within the serving will help you become familiar with appropriate portion sizes. In addition, learning how to visually identify what a serving size looks like without having to measure and weigh foods will make it easier to control your portions later on down the road. For example, one small chicken breast is about the size of a deck of cards, a ½ cup of pasta is about the size of a hockey puck, and 1.5 ounces of cheddar cheese is roughly the size of a pair of dice. Being able to “eyeball” your serving sizes will help make portion control and calorie estimating much easier.

Don’t Eat While Watching TV:Eating while watching television will totally distract you from what you are putting in your mouth. Most people who are snacking while watching a show will continuously graze throughout the entire program without realizing how much food they are actually consuming. It’s best to serve yourself your portion-controlled dish and eat it before you even reach for the TV remote.

Divide Your Dish Before You Eat: A simple way to get a handle on your portions is to divide your plate in half and fill one half of your plate with vegetables, one quarter with your protein, and one quarter with your starchy component. Instead of filling your plate full of spaghetti or a large steak with potatoes, dividing your dish accordingly among your vegetables, protein, and starch will help to show you what a complete, calorie-controlled meal looks like.

Leave Platters of Food Out Of Sight: Eating a family-style meal – where platters of food are scattered across the dinner table – is conducive to people mindlessly reaching for seconds. Instead, keep the platters in another room and serve your dish before you sit at the table. Doing so will limit the temptation to reach for more and give your brain time to realize your full and send the message before you reach for more.

Don’t Make Meat or Pasta the Main Course: It’s typical to make a juicy steak or a plate of spaghetti and meatballs the main course of your meal. However, doing so will undoubtedly make the caloric content of your meal sky-high. Instead, put more emphasis on vegetables and make meat or pasta the side dish. You’ll end up feeling fuller faster and load your body with rich vitamins and fiber.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals: Instead of the typical 3 meals per day regime, break down your meal sizes and eat more often. Eating 5 or 6 meals a day instead of the standard 3 will help to maintain proper portion control. It will also help to increase the likelihood of eating less overall, shrink the size of your stomach, and maintain energy levels throughout the day.

Don’t Snack Out of the Bag: It’s nearly impossible to be able to determine how much you are eating if you are snacking right out of the chip bag. If you have to have a treat, pour out an appropriate portion into a bowl first before snacking. Doing so will help you keep tabs on exactly how much food you are ingesting.

Avoid Caloric Beverages: Try to avoid drinking beverages that are high in calories such as fruit juices and sodas. These types of drinks can contain a lot more calories than you may realize, which will add onto your daily caloric consumption. Drink water instead so you can focus your calories on healthy, vitamin-rich foods at meal tim

Avoid Your Trigger Foods: If there are certain types of foods that you simply can’t say no to or leave you feeling like you just can’t stop after one, then it’s best to avoid that food completely. Instead, choose a treat that you CAN control, so you won’t be left overindulging in high-calorie foods.

Skip Buffet Restaurants: All-you-can-eat buffet restaurants may be the most affordable way to treat yourself to an unending influx of food, but it is certainly not an ideal way to maintain your portions or your weight. Trying to limit your portions at such establishments is almost impossible, so it’s best to just avoid them completely when you’re on a mission to reach your ideal weight.

The Bottom Line

It’s not uncommon for people to lack understanding of what a proper portion size is. With restaurants increasing their portion sizes over the decades, it makes it more difficult for people to identify what a proper portion size looks like. Follow the above 10 tips to help you manage your portion control so you can maintain an ideal weight, and improve your overall health and wellness.