What Is Portion Control?

What Is Portion Control?

The terms “portion size” and “serving size” are often used to describe amounts of food.1 Although many confuse the terms to be interchangeable, they are not. While serving size is the standard amount of food expressed as cups or ounces, portion size usually refers to the amount of food that is actually consumed or is being offered. Controlling portion size to avoid overeating and to maintain healthy eating patterns is increasingly considered important in managing weight, diabetes, and metabolic health.


Being Aware of Increased Portion Sizes 

Over the past few decades, several food production and consumption trends have changed around the world, and such changes have been called as potential reasons for the increasing rate of obesity and metabolic health issues globally.1 While the consumption of home-prepared foods have decreased, the consumption of foods prepared outside the home has increased. Along with this trend, portion sizes for packaged foods and beverages have steadily grown. Studies have found that people are more likely to eat significantly more than normal when offered an increased amount of food, showcasing the importance of portion control.


How Does Portion Control Help?

How much to eat is often a subjective decision, rather than one that is based on individual needs.1 Research also suggests that many individuals misinterpret nutritional labels, leading to an inaccurate understanding of the caloric and nutritional value of the food they choose to consume. However, utilizing portion control can be a great to avoid eating excessive amounts of food and reduce carbohydrate consumption, which is especially important for individuals with diabetes. A 2022 scoping review of research studies on various methods of portion control has found that utilizing portion control plates can help increase consumption of vegetables and fruits in children and adults and can promote weight loss in individuals who are obese and/or have type 2 diabetes mellitus.2


How Do You Control Portion Size?

There are various methods for controlling portion size. For instance, the American Diabetes Association suggests using the “Diabetes Plate Method” for individuals with diabetes.3 You can begin by grabbing a nine-inch plate and filling ½ of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of the plate with protein, and the remaining ¼ of the plate with carbohydrate. Try to limit your drink to water or a low- or zero-calorie drink. Other methods include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “MyPlate” that suggests filling ½ of the plate with vegetables and fruits and the other ½ of the plate with carbohydrates and protein, with low-fat or fat-free dairy on the side.4  

In addition to utilizing these plate methods to control portion size, be extra mindful when you are eating out. Certain restaurants and fast-food chains may offer more foods and/or drinks than what you normally eat at home.5 It may be helpful to follow tips on eating out if you are trying to control your diabetes or weight. You can save some of your dish to eat as a leftover or share your food with others. When given the option to choose the size of a meal, try to avoid the large sides or drinks, but opt for the smaller sizes.


1. Van der Horst K, Bucher T, Duncanson K, Murawski B, Labbe D. Consumer Understanding, Perception and Interpretation of Serving Size Information on Food Labels: A Scoping Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2189. doi:10.3390/nu11092189
2. Jia SS, Liu Q, Allman-Farinelli M, et al. The Use of Portion Control Plates to Promote Healthy Eating and Diet-Related Outcomes: A Scoping Review. Nutrients. 2022;14(4):892. doi:10.3390/nu14040892
3. Eating Well | ADA. Accessed October 13, 2023. https://diabetes.org/food-nutrition/eating-healthy
4. USDA MyPlate What Is MyPlate? Accessed October 13, 2023. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/what-is-myplate
5. Eating Out With Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 20, 2022. Accessed August 29, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/eating-out.html



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