Whether you are trying to lose weight or just become healthier, you've probably heard the term "portion control" and maybe you have a slight understanding but aren't completely sure if you're on point or you just have no idea what it means.
What is a portion?
So like always I want to make sure that we have definitions in place so that those of you who just skim blog posts for quick info get your fix here (lol, I do that ...a lot) but I also want to delve a bit deeper into what these terms means and how to apply them into your life.
"A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small, you decide."
"A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or one cup (eight ounces) of milk." (Check out my blog post on How To Read A Nutrition Label here)
"Regulation of the size of food portions"
"A type of plan you create for yourself or a family of what type of diet and food you will have and need at meal times so you can buy and plan effectively."
"1 food and drink considered with regard to their nutritional qualities, composition, and effects on health.
2 nutrients prescribed, regulated, or restricted as to kind and amount for therapeutic or other purposes.
3 the customary allowance of food and drink regularly provided or consumed."
As you can see, a lot of these terms are closely related and you have probably heard them used interchangeably but they are different and not having a clear understanding can make it so much harder to eat healthy and reach your health goals.
Difference between a Portion and a Serving
This is the most common confusion in this topic. When we eat, and we do so unregulated by any diets or health goals, we don't think about what portions we are having or what the serving size is, we just eat. But... once you start watching what you eat you start having to pay attention to those things for several reasons.
Are you trying to lose weight? If so then you may have been told that you need to either cut down on your calories or eat smaller portions. A portion is the amount of food that you eat at any given meal for example, you may be used to eating 2 full cups of mashed potatoes with you steak for dinner. A smaller portion would me that you only have 1 cup instead of 2. If say you made the mashed potatoes from a box, you may notice that in the nutrition facts each serving is listed as 1/2 c or 4 oz. So eating a full cup means you ate 2 servings.
When it comes down to counting calories, paying attention to the amount of calories per serving can help you make decisions about the size of your portions. You may decide that it isn't worth it to eat all the calories in 2 servings and instead opt to have a smaller portion of mashed potatoes and a bigger portion of carrots.
This same thinking goes for people trying to gain weight, maintain weight, or even watch their intake of sodium or other nutrients.
Difference between a Diet and a Meal Plan
In the simplest sense, a diet, is whatever you are eating. So while some people say they are dieting, in reality we all are because if not we'd be dead. But... there are distinct types of diets. They come in soooooo soooooo soooooo many forms!!! A diet can be created with a intention of helping people lose weight, gain weight, and even manage disease and they come in many forms because there are many different reasons to change up your diet. There are also health and unhealthy diets out there so while anyone can say they are on a diet, it doesn't always mean that they are trying to lose weight or that they are becoming healthy. A meal plan on the other hand is a set plan to execute your diet goals. If you are following a low carb diet, you will need to create (or someone else will create one for you) a meal plan so that you know how much you need to eat, what to eat, and when to eat it.
This is where portions come into play. Different diets will dictate different requirements and set their own portion control regulations. Some diets may limit the amount of carbs or fat that you can have in the day and set specific times to have them while some diets will let you have them at any time as long as you stay within the set amount for the day.
If you have to limit your intake of certain nutrients per meal then your portions sizes will be set by the serving size of certain food products.
If you can have your food whenever you like, you may not need to watch the size of your portions per meal and instead add them up at the end of the day.
Each meal plan is different and individualized per person. My husband and I eat on the same "diet" (we like to call it a lifestyle) but since he is much taller than I am, he gets to eat bigger "portions" of the same foods (which sucks!) but without a clear understanding of what we are eating, we wouldn't be able to control how our body reacts to food.
Watching your portions
I don't know about you but I can EASILY scarf down a family size bag of chips in one setting. For years I have been horrified by the nutrition label saying that there are like 16 servings in the bag!!! I know that it is unhealthy and so for me portion control means cutting down the amount I eat to one serving. That way I still have chips but I am not eating a family's worth each day. Not everyone is watching their weight but it is still a good idea to pay attention to the size of your servings because even if you eat relatively healthy, eating too much of anything is usually not the best idea.
For some people eating too many refined carbs in one setting can create a jump in their blood sugar level that is then followed by a big fall and consequently a big crash in energy and mood. So by understanding that certain foods have to be eaten alongside other nutrients like protein and fiber in order to stabilize energy levels, a person gets to gain more control over their body as they learn to control their portions.
If you aren't looking for a special diet but you're hoping to learn more about general health guidelines and what you're expected to be able to eat in a day, check out MyPlate.gov which lists the United States' food guidelines along with an explanation of what a portioned plate looks like.
Once you do that, if you're wanting extra help, you can get yourself a MyPlate style plate, to help you with choosing wisely at meals. I also found this awesome portion plate called Merianne's Melamine Portion Plate that lists what foods to have in what section and it's gorgeous so I thought i'd share it with you all but there is also a list here of a ton of other kinds out there!
I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of what a portion is. Soon I will be creating my very own nutrition program to teach people how to create a diet individualized to their needs and it will include information on meals plans and portion control for weight loss. Stay in touch, I am really excited to share this all with the world. If you are already following a specific diet or meal plan but are struggling with staying motivated, understanding why you are doing what you're doing, or just need support and encouragement I can help you. Having a coach can be the difference between giving up and succeeding. Book an appointment here. :) Thank you for reading this post and if you liked it and feel like others could benefit from it, please share it on your social media accounts. Thank you and have a great blessed day!