12 Ways to Cut Your Portion Sizes Without Feeling Hungry
By WLR Staff
It is possible to lose weight simply by reducing your portion sizes. The problem is you need to do it without leaving yourself feeling hungry, otherwise between meal snacking can get out of hand.
How much you eat, or how hungry you feel is not all down to your stomach – it involves your mind, emotions and senses. We’ve got tactics that utilise them all in our lovely list of the best.
Start by trying 2 or 3 you think you’ll find quite easy to do, and start making a difference to your calorie intake and therefore your weight.
1. Have a Small Snack Before Dinner
You know how your mum used to react when you asked for a biscuit half an hour before dinner?
“No, you’ll spoil your dinner!”
Well, we’re not trying to spoil your dinner but . . .
Taking the edge off your appetite before you eat your meal can be a very good idea when you’re trying to lose weight.
The trick is to make it something low in calories, preferably with some protein, and low in sugar – we don’t want to create a spike.
Try a small handful of nuts, a low fat (low sugar) yoghurt, a few olives, wholegrain crispbread with light cheese spread, some low cal soup – even a small bag of crisps will do the job.
2. Remember Your Needs Are Different
The (unfortunate for women/lucky for men) fact is that men need more calories than women – even when they’re sleeping. There can also be big differences in the calorie needs of people of the same gender – a few inches in height or notches on the activity level scale add up to needing a bigger or smaller meal.
The important thing is to eat with your own needs in mind. Getting to know what these are can help you to feel more satisfied with the correct portion for you, and help you not to overeat when you’re with your partner, family or friends.
3. Contain Your Leftovers
People don’t like wasting food, understandably - it wastes time, effort and money and doesn’t sit very well with your conscience. Especially if you were brought up with the ‘clear your plate’ message.
So make it easy on yourself to save food that you don’t really need to eat right now. Arm yourself with a range of airtight containers, foil and bags, and chill, freeze and create your way to using up the leftovers.
4. Plan for a Pudding
What’s this? Puddings don’t go with weight loss, do they?
Well, perhaps not full blown Eton Mess or Sticky Toffee – but a handful of sweet fruit like grapes, a square or two of chocolate, a small pot of fromage frais or even a couple of Haribo will do the trick. It will mark the end of your meal and satisfy your taste-buds.
After a meal is a good time to eat sweet things (in small amounts!) as they shouldn’t cause a blood sugar spike when eaten alongside your dinner.
5. Portion Your Snack Food
Trying splitting your snack foods into measured portions. For example, if you regularly eat nuts, put 10, 15 or 20 grams into little bags to be eaten one at a time.
The same can be done with crisps, chocolate or cheese. If you can’t live without caramel bars – break them into 10-20g pieces and you have your own treat-size favourite. (NB – keep your little portions in a hard-to-open container at the back of the fridge, and only get one out at a time!)
Focus on foods that you tend to easily get carried away with when you eat straight from the pack.
There’s a bonus benefit in doing this – you’ll get to know how many calories in a handful when you’re at the buffet table or having drinks and nibbles.
People often say they eat less when they spend time preparing, cooking and presenting a meal. Get out your recipe books and try something different, that takes a bit of effort to make.
6.5. Only Cook as Much as You Need
Unless you have specific plans for the meal you’re cooking, e.g. lunch tomorrow, dinner next week, cook only enough food for the needs of the people you are serving. Any more will likely lead to eating too much or feeling bad about wasted food.
7. Try Some Ready Meals
Try out a few ready meals that are within the calorie budget you want to spend on dinner. Add vegetables or salad, as many ready meals don’t include much and fibre in vegetables helps to fill you up.
This will get you used to the idea of what a meal that’s the right portion size for you looks and feels like. If you don’t feel satisfied when you’ve finished eat a piece of fruit, and try adding more veggies to the meal next time. (If you don’t fancy a piece of fruit or extra veg, you’re probably not really still hungry.)
8. Drink a Large Glass of Water Before Your Meal
Research has shown that drinking a 500ml glass of water before a meal can actually cause you to eat less. It’s not totally clear why this should be the case – possibly the stomach feeling fuller, or the presence of water slowing down the digestion of your meal. Whatever the specific reason, it’s a very easy strategy to adopt and it works.
Drink the water cold about 20-30 minutes before you eat.
9 Eat Mindfully
Focus on enjoying the food in front of you. Eat in your kitchen or dining room, (or in the park if you’re taking a lunch break from the office) if possible, and leave your mobile/tablet/TV/computer in another room.
Research has shown that people who watch TV, or play computer games while they are eating meals tend to consume more than those who ate without any distractions.
The idea is to focus mind and body on the meal you are eating.
10 Wear a Belt (Or a Piece of String)
Or any other clothes that have a waistband that starts to feel snug during a meal, therefore providing a direct and physical signal that your belly’s getting full.
The technique of using a piece of string around the waist was used by researchers and showed that the extra stimulus made people eat fewer calories during a meal.
If you tend to wear lose fitting clothing and want to try the string idea, don’t make it too tight. Tie your string around your waist at least a couple of hours after you’ve eaten – so it fits like a comfortable waistband
11 Use Smaller Plates
How you view the plate of food that’s in front of you can make a big difference to how satisfied you feel. A large plate with a lot of its surface unfilled with food could seem like a small portion, whereas a smaller plate which would be covered with the same amount of food can look like a large portion.
Don’t go overboard and start serving your dinner on a side-plate, it’ll defeat the object if you’re conscious that you’re looking at a small plate of food.
But ‘normal’ dinner plates can range in size from around 25-30cm, that’s quite a big difference in area – and if I was a mathematician I’d tell you how much!
12 Eat Slowly
It takes some time for your stomach to register a feeling of fullness and send signals to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat.
You can help this process to kick in before you eat too much by slowing down the pace at which you eat.
There are several ways of doing this, put them all together and you’ll see a dramatic difference in the amount you need to eat to feel satisfied. Try these:
- Put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls
- Take small bites
- Use a smaller knife, fork or spoon so you get less in each mouthful
- Use cutlery rather than fingers
- Chew food slowly – savour it
- Sip water frequently throughout your meal
- Take a break halfway through your meal to sit back and relax for a minute
- Challenge yourself to not let your food touch your lips as its going into your mouth
- If you’re somewhat competitive, and eating in company, try to eat more slowly than your companions.
Seeing the figures in black and white can show you where to make small changes to your portion sizes that can lead to big changes on the scales.