How do I Control My Portion Size for Weight Management?

Anita with patient

8 Useful Tips for Weight Management

There are many dietary behaviours that impact on the prevalence of obesity. These can include the energy density of food, the frequency of which food and beverages are consumed and of course, the portion size of our food.

Let’s focus on one of these key factors that can lead to unwanted weight gain……portion size.

It is a well-known fact that the more food we serve ourselves, the more we tend to eat! Multiple well-controlled laboratories and free-living studies have demonstrated the powerful impact of portion size on the amount of food we consume .

To make things a little more difficult for us, research indicated that portion sizes of food products and meals in restaurants and fast-food establishments have also been increasing since the late 1970’s.

When we are thinking about portion sizes of food we are not just thinking about main meals. Portion sizes of snacks have been shown to promote energy intake due to their high energy density and large packaging sizes.

Outcomes from nine separate studies showed increasing the portion size of a snack by 100% will result in a 35-80% increase in adults snack energy intake. Similar findings have been shown for meals with a 30-55% increase in energy intake when a meal portion size is increased by 100%.

How can you manage your portion size to maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic disease risk factors at bay?

Here are my top-tips to help with portion size control:

Set your plate at each main meal to look like the pictured “portion plate”: Visualising these portions will help maintain a balance of nutrient dense foods and energy intake.

½ of your plate should include Vegetables or salad: Green beans, lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, celery, carrot, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leek, snow peas, mushrooms, zucchini, beetroot, eggplant etc.

¼ of your plate should include lean protein: Chicken, beef, fish, 2x eggs, tofu, tempeh, legumes etc.

¼ of your plate should include wholegrains or starchy vegetables: Potato, sweet potato, corn, whole grain pasta, brown rice, wholegrain bread etc.

Portion control plates provide you with visual cues to help regulate recommended portion sizes. Research has shown that using portion control plates can be an effective tool to induce weight loss.

Skipping meals can lead to heightened hunger levels and overeating at mealtimes.

Research suggests that individuals in a fasted state have been shown to choose more high energy foods when grocery shopping.

Eating straight from a packet or fridge makes it very difficult to monitor a recommended serving size.

Serving from the kitchen rather than from shared plates on or near the dinner table. This will help discourage second helpings.

Our stomach stretches during meal and snack times which sends signals up to the brain to tell us we are full. Take some time to allow your stomach to catch-up to your brain’s fullness signals.

Setting leftovers aside by placing in meal-sized containers and covering or refrigerating before sitting down for a meal will help to prevent second helpings.

portion control for weight management


  1. Livingstone, B., Pourshahidi, K. 2014. Portion Size and Obesity. Advances in Nutrition. 5 (6). 829–834,
  2. Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. 2003. Patterns and trends in food portion sizes. Journal of the American Medical Association. 22-29;289(4):450-3. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.4.450.
  3. Pedersen S, Kang J, Kline G. 2007. Portion control plate for weight loss in obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a controlled clinical trial. Archives of Internal Medicine. 167(12):1277-83. doi: 10.1001/archinte.167.12.1277.
  4. Kesman R, Ebbert J, Harris K, Schroeder D. 2011. Portion control for the treatment of obesity in the primary care setting. BMC Research Notes. 9;4:346. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-346.
  5. Tal A, Wansink B. 2013. Fattening Fasting: Hungry Grocery Shoppers Buy More Calories, Not More Food. JAMA Internal Medicine. 173(12):1146–1148. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.650
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